This weekend, I had the pleasure of bringing my cousin (14) to see my university's hockey team. After the game, we crashed at a friend's place. I gave my cousin the couch and I slept on the floor.I woke up first this morning. After awhile, I put on glasses and I ended up watching my cousin sleep. Watching someone young sleep is very peaceful. Any troubles they have melt away. I had an inspiration on one of my stories that I was stuck on. I've worked out a part I was having trouble with.So cheers to my cousin, the best cousin a guy could wish for. I read his blog (he's using my old computer right now.... let's say that I know how to extract information. If I didn't trust him, I'd be monitoring even closer by actually viewing his screen.... but there is no need. he's a really good kid.) In his blog he mentioned that was feeling really happy for the first time in awhile. He'd probably stay on the computer all night if we let him. lol.Anyway, I've got some writing to do.
In my latest project I've got more than a hundred named characters.
Insanity!? Probably but, that's how I roll. Goofy bastard.
So... how do you keep track of it all? It's a struggle.
These are the tricks I'm using and, the pros and cons of each.
1. Dramatis Persona... word document
This worked Ok until it got to sixteen pages with notes and pointers to other entries. Then it became too complex and cumbersome to easily work well. It lost the virtue of simplicity when it was overloaded with more and more complex and unformed information.
This is what it looked like at first:
Chris Ashley (19) == Father Ashley (n)
Tony Ramano (18) == Mother Maria Ramano (n)
Toby Rankin (13) (d) == Father Sam Rankin (deceased)
Brandon Rankin (14)(d) == Father Sam Rankin (deceased)
Jeb Somerset (15)(d) == parents Somersets of Savannah
Cole Matthews (14)(d) == Father new age fruitcake
Barry Anderson (13) (d) == trafficked child, actual name is Cutler
You don't want to know what happened later. Each entry expanded from name, age, shift (day or night), parent to paragraphs and description and sketches and why the F* are my notes outpacing the writing???
This still exists but it has been trimmed down to only what is needed at a glance. Just basic stats. If I need hair and eye color... Well that's my next step.
2. Dramatis Persona... note cards
Anybody that's ever written a paper knows about note cards and how handy dandy they are. They were hyper-text before there were computers, right?
WRONG. Three by five note cards are amazing things. They help in lots of ways... until they become a horrific cluster of complexity and you can't find your arse with a flash light.
Once again, Keep it simple, stupid. Index cards work but, you can't expect them to be a database.
They are useful for marching ideas across the desk, matching up characters and seeing how things look. If you keep them simple and don't try to do too much with them, it works FINE.
Keep it simple and, it works best if you can remember how to write. (That's actually a thing- handwriting vs keyboarding).
3. Dramatis Persona... spreadsheet- for the win.
Yes it is a clear winner. It's searchable. You can make fields for EVERYTHING. Want to search by how many redheaded characters you have? It's possible. Want to sort by age? You can do it. Want to know who is boffing who? Yeppers, it's a complete possibility.
There are highly complex writing packages that you could spend forever learning and not get anything done. Databases are possible but if you can do that, someone wants to hire you to fix the mess his last guy left.
Spreadsheets are old tech and have been around forever. The key thing about them is they are built generically enough that as your complexity grows, it can accommodate you without breaking anything or having to start over.
Your mileage may vary. If you've got a sane number of characters, data management isn't a huge issue. You may absolutely love Scrivner and have figured out how to make it all work. That's fine. If you can use Excel, you've got a serious power tool.
By Nick Brady
A recent comment in the Writer's Forum about a story involving a disabled person gave me the idea for a story about a blind college student that I befriended many years ago. I have posted a number of stories here on GA - (Carhops, Goats and Bugs, the Marco series and the Nick series). These were reposts that had previously appeared on another site but the new story will appear here first. Since it is new, and because the topic could be a bit sensitive, I would really like a Beta reader. Not so much for the usual grammar edit, but for content. I think there is a good story here and I don't want to screw it up. Any volunteers?
By Thorn Wilde
I've been meaning to do NaNoWriMo for years, but I never got around to it. November always seems to be a bad month for me. So when I heard about Camp NaNoWriMo this year, I decided this was my chance. So, in April, I finished and rewrote Nemesis. And I won! I'm sort of giddy and very pleased with myself right now.