False Teeth and Blue Eyes: Keeping Track of Characters

Traditionally, novelists have been told to keep track of their characters with a Character Bible. Especially for a series that features the same characters, it’s important that a blue-eye beauty in Book 1 is still a blue-eyed beauty in Book 3. To maintain consistency, authors often need to keep detailed lists of characters and his/her characteristics. Of course, it’s not hard to track main characters, but the minor characters can run together in a blur.

Enter, the Character Bible. Often this is a physical notebook that gives each character a page(s) where you jot down important notes about physical or psychological details, along with notes on his/her back story.

But in these high-tech days, there are other ways to do this.

Spreadsheet. Create a spreadsheet with columns for important details. Rows are the names of the characters. One advantage of this is the ability to sort alphabetically. You can see at a glance if every one of your beauties is blue-eyed or brown-eyed or an interesting mix. It’s clumsy when every character’s name sounds like every other one. Just skim the names and try to make sure that names begin with different letters.

Wikis. Wikis are collections of information that allow collaborative editing. What you care about here, though, is that you can organize the data in any way you wish. Perhaps, you want a page for every character, for every family, for different chapters, or specific to one title in a series. It’s up to you. This article explains four options for a personal wiki.

Keep track of your character's false teeth and blue eyes with these tech toys.
Keep track of your character’s false teeth and blue eyes with these tech toys.

Evernote is a popular software that allows you to capture websites, add files and stay organized and synced across various platforms via the Cloud. Uber-fans of Evernote use it to organize their entire life: they store recipes, organize trips, and keep track of homework assignments. The novelist can use it only for work, or extend it into other areas of life. For keeping characters straight, use tags and keywords for eye and hair color, save photos of clothes that Sally might wear, and clip a website article about grieving. Read more about Evernote.

Scrivener is a writing software that allows you to write without worrying about formatting. But it’s far more than that, with the ability to use tags and keywords, to clip websites and store photos or other research materials. It has the added bonus of outlining with text or a simulated cork board with index cards. Though we’re talking about keeping track of characters, this program goes so much farther, even tracking daily quotas of writing. Writers swear by this one, too.

Intro to Scrivener Video

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Pinterest Boards. If you are visually oriented, try creating a Pinterest board for your series and Pin photos of characters, clothing, recipes, setting, etc. Here’s an example of a Character board, and another, and another. These also seems like great ways to promote your book. If you have a character Pinterest board, please leave a link in the comments.


3 thoughts on “0

  1. It’s so easy to get colors, heights, and you name it…mixed up.

    I personally need to find some sort of system. A character in my manuscript has long hair and in another chapter the same person has short in another (and I don’t remember her getting a haircut). Yikes.

    Thanks for suggesting ways to track my characters.


  2. thanks for this piece….I have been looking for something like this, and people indeed swear by Scrivener(Bartleby, anyone?), though I’ve been somewhat too intimidated to try. I think your encouragement/tutorial has imbued me with the required courage. Thanks for the good post!

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