Scrivener Tip: Keeping Track of Characters

I have many characters in my novel, both major and minor. Here’s the method I use in Scrivener to keep track of characters in my books series.

My books are science fiction, so consistency in the odd spelling of non-Earth names is important–but I was going crazy trying to spell an alien’s name the same throughout the manuscript.

I use to organize my characters in alphabetical order within the “Character” folder. This felt clunky to me because I had so many characters. Even dividing them by “Major” and “Minor” characters did not help.

Then I had an epiphany.

In Scrivener, several ways exist to keeping track of characters (“Who is this?” I ask myself when going back over a manuscript.) and spelling of names (“Is her name Lea, Lei or Lee?”). This is my method. I rearranged my character folder so I could find information about my characters more quickly.

Here’s how I did it:characters

  1. Within your Characters folder, create sub-folders for each group/organization/setting in your story. For example, I’ve written about a spaceship called The Planned Happenstance. I created a sub-folder with that name.  I have a town in several scenes called Frenen. I created a sub-folder with name, and so on.
  2. Move all your character cards to the sub-folder in which they belong. In my story, characters usually belong to one of these groups. As the story progresses, if a character ends up belonging to more than one group, I keep the character in the original group. That’s a personal choice.
  3. When you need to reference a character, you can find them by group, pull up their information and find the answer to your question. What was the color of Kessla’s eyes? She is a Consortium Agent. I open up the Character/Consortium Agents/Kessla document. Green!

I have found using this method especially helps me keep track of minor characters. “What was the name of that security guard in that earlier scene?” Instead of opening every character document whose name I don’t recognize, I narrow it down by group. I save time.

Another advantage to this method is spontaneous character creation. Once, I realized I needed a character card for the daughter of one of my more major characters. This daughter, I realized, was going to play a big role. But I hadn’t gotten to her scenes yet. I went ahead and created a quick card with her name (I could change it later if I wanted to) and placed it in the group folder where I knew she belonged.

“What was her name?” Later, I wouldn’t have to search every unfamiliar character document. I narrow it down by going to the group folder where I knew she would be. At the appropriate time, I can fill out information about her in more detail.

Suggestions when using this method:

  • If a character is so minor, he or she does not have a name, then I don’t create a character card for them. Of course, there may be exceptions to this suggestion.
  • In Scrivener, the author has the option of using a graphic of the character. I highly recommend this because a visual helps in further keeping track of characters.

So that’s the method I developed for organizing my characters in Scrivener. I don’t know if anyone else does it this way, but it seemed to develop organically for the way I think. It may not work for every person, but it does for me.

And that is another reason I love the flexibility of Scrivener.


View my Consortium SF Series at Amazon.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. So useful! Thanks Andrew. I’m writing fantasy/speculative fiction. This method will take care of characters in different towns and villages. Have a great week. 🙂

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