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Characters - info

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Taniwha, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. Taniwha

    Taniwha Scribe

    Hi Folks,

    A while back I downloaded YWrite to test a software programme approach to writing. I definitely see the benefits of it but I'm really not that way inclined. I prefer to just write rather than having to fill in spaces etc as I go.

    Sooo - one of the issues I now have is that now that I'm editing my book, I find I have so many characters that I struggle to remember their names - let alone their roles and physical characteristics etc. and I think I need to list them all somewhere for my own reference.

    So - given I've rejected software....which software would you use for that purpose? ;o)
    I can't decide on excel or word - I kind of feel I'll need it all within the book at some point anyways.
    OR is there something else I should consider?
  2. goldhawk

    goldhawk Troubadour

    Software is great for organizing your work. But it's not so great for inspiration. Learning to write is learning what works for you and what doesn't. Perhaps you should concentrate on improving your skills and less on software?
    Taniwha likes this.
  3. Taniwha

    Taniwha Scribe

    Thank you. How do you keep track of all your characters / characteristics / roles within a story?
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Vala

    For the general structure, I tend to use paper and pencil. I draw a vague Flow Chart of what happens when and who is there. And if something needs to change I can rub out and redraw really easily. As for the Who is Who that I tend to keep in a text document for each person with the important details.
    Night Gardener and Taniwha like this.
  5. Taniwha

    Taniwha Scribe

  6. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Sage

    My methods? Main characters get a full docier: a sketch or physical description, background stories, family tree, likes and dislikes, etc.

    Secondary and Supporting Characters get smaller file. They need to exist peripherally for distinctive reasons as they too will serve important roles in the plot. They get background synopsis, and an associations report, with a brief physical description.

    Tertiary Characters are the background characters. They may or may not even have names. But, the important notation I make is impressions or demeanour towards any of the other 2 categories of characters, or something I want to convey to the reader. For instance, A shopkeeper might be nervously gabby, the jailer might have a twisted sense of humor, the banker might be impatient, etc.

    The 2nd and 3rd group of characters are, editorially speaking, well...editable. If I can combine two or more characters into one, I probably will if it won't hurt the servicing of the story.

    For instance, there's a lot of rival Houses in my WIP. I'm not interested, at this stage of development, in trying to name them all. There would be thousands of characters to imagine. It's just extra mental weight to lug around. But that's my method. Leave a lot of the margins blank until I need details.

    With yours, I recommend making a Punnits Square meets Venn Diagram. Of sorts. ( I've used them before to study for history and civics, sometimes fiction.) List all your main characters on one side of a page, then the top. List all your secondary characters on the bottom of the next page. Draw a table /grid between names. However and whoever they interact with, fill in the blank with things like "related", "friend", "enemy" where names intersect.

    So if your main character is Jane, who has a brother named Joe, and her brother has a friend named Jason that she's dating, but Jane's friend Joy is jealous because she wants to be dating Jason, and Joe has a crush Joy, and there's other friends in the group the "grid" might look something like this for the Main Characters... you could expand into paragraphs, this is just a quick example.

    MC. Jane. Jason. Joe. Joy
    Jane. X. In love. Brother. BFF, jealous
    Jason. In love. X. Bff. Unrequited
    Joe. Sister. Bff. X. Unrequited
    Joy. Bff. Wants. Unrequited. X

    Then, same names with one column in relation to their mutual friends, parents, associates, enemies, etc. You could expand on this easily and it would be a quick "inner dynamics" guide. You could add physical descriptions for each character, etc.

    I'm sure software exists to handle your problem, but pen to paper can be far more intuituve. Just have fun thinking it all through! You'll finf find a method that works for you. Happy Writing!
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    Scrivener is what I use for writing and organization. There really isn’t anything that compares, but there is a little learning curve for folks not used to such things. So, I can have character lists, maps, religions, gods, dialogue samples, notes, gibberish, a grocery list... anything I want sitting there conveniently in one file.
  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

    We have roughly 500 named series characters, and we have found that OneNote is extremely helpful in keeping them sorted out (and keeping up from repeating names!). It's a very versatile program, letting you do anything from insert internet articles and pictures to creating simple spreadsheets to writing directly in the files. And the best part is that if you use Microsoft Office, you already have it!
  9. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

    From the time I begin making notes, I keep an alphabetical list of every character, no matter how small the role. I do not use anything special for this, it is just in a word processing file with the other info. There might be a little sketch of who they are, their appearance, that sort of thing. A few lines, just to help keep them straight. Every place gets on a list too.
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Whatever you do, don't use excel. It'll backfire in the end.

    I used OneNote and I absolutely love it's organization capabilities. But I've stopped using it. I was running into too many compatibility issues across computers. And by its very nature it's not print friendly. If you can avoid the first issue and don't need to do a lot of printing, I wholeheartedly recommend OneNote, especially for larger and more complicated problems.

    For myself though I've switched to simple MS Word. I've got the page in Landscape orientation with three columns, and I'm constantly going through it to delete words and condense the information. It looks something like this:

    Seelie Magic:
    A luck-based curse.
    - Mogrify: Something transforms
    - Gaffe: Target misspeaks
    - so on, and so on.

    Charms: Enchant a single item.
    - Item glows on condition.
    - Item signals fairy your emotions.
    - so on, and so on.

    The main advantage here is the ability to print it, and then look it over to see as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time. That helps me to visualize the setting, the characters, the plot elements, and whatever else I have, and see where the gaps are as a whole. Or if I need to focus I can fold back the columns I'm not focused on.

    Also, seeing more of the project at once helps me to continue adapting and meshing older information with newer information, so that things are constantly developing instead of older pieces being "finished" and maybe not as good as they could be.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.

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