I thought I could write without a list of characters, which some people refer to as their Character Bible.
I did, but I found that I made many many mistakes that way. Mistakes that reared their ugly heads when I submitted my book for the first edit.
I started out doing short stories and fan fiction. So I do not write my novels from beginning to end, or even chapter by chapter moving through time. My minor characters get fuzzy in my head. If they do reappear, they might have new names along with new attributes.
For instance, I might call him Jim the construction guy in Chapter 5 and when I refer back to him in Chapter 7, I call him Sean. If he has a title and a first name, I will get the title right, but Dr. Melvin Acorn will become Dr. Hal Adams later on. Not good. And if I am not careful, they can change their appearance too. A tall dark handsome cannot become a troll like ugly overnight, nor can a blonde bombshell degrade into a middle aged raven haired maven in three pages unless she has a creature-feature makeup artist in the mix.
It confuses the reader, the editor and makes me look schizoid (even thought in my writing head I feel just fine).
I have found that it also helps me avoid having ‘alphabet-itis’ – the disease of naming all your characters with the same first letter or same sounding first syllable. If you have a Carie and a Karen and a Carla, even if they have divergent personalities and they appear at different times, it is confusing. And God forbid if they talk to one another!
So if you haven’t done it – go back, spend some time making this list and checking it twice. Like Santa you need to know who is naughty and who is nice. If you are just starting out, here’s a couple of suggestions.
Because I come from a profession that used different project management techniques.
Mine starts as a Word Document with a simple table listing of people
– 6 columns – Name, Chapter(s) they appear in, brief physical description, a scant bio, age, whether they recur and in which chapter it happens and finally a comments column.
Not fancy, because there is no learning curve for new software, no automatic links to what you are writing. You can even do it with a large pages of drawing paper or on a white board if a low tech answer is your wish. No shame here, you’ve seen it in every murder mystery solved by a group of cops on film or tv – in the squad room they have a murder board of suspects to help them visualize people, places and events.
I have seen others that make a page for each character with the same info, giving them the ability to add more and more detail as they see fit. Actually, this is the same as filling out a character profile to participate in fan-fiction or at a role-playing site.
I am sure that there are as many ways to do this are there are ways to write, each one fitting each different author. No matter which way you go, go do it!
For more help, check out these blogs and articles or ask the information goddess Google – she has plenty of suggestions!
From the San Diego Professional Writers Group blog – http://sdwriters.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/create-a-character-bible-to-flesh-out-your-star-characters/
From EHOW.com –
( I cannot vouch for the software they provide in a link you to because I have not used it)