I create characters for practice. I don’t throw them out, I keep them. I do short character charts on them in a word processor. Then I store them in a rough database. OK, I stick the documents in a folder on my computer. It functions as a database of extras for my stories. These are the minor characters, the town gossip, the mail person, a clerk in a store, you know the character. These are the characters that don’t have a starring role in a story.
A character database can be as low tech as a notebook with hand written notes on a character. All you need to note down is the character’s name, physical characteristics and any other pertinent information you might need for a particular character. I write detailed character sketches in MS Word by answering the questions in a character chart for main characters. I only do the first few sections for minor characters.
It’s a good idea to put them all in one place, so a folder on my computer functions as my database. This is especially useful for characters I use in a series. I create sub-folders for the series and that’s where I put the main characters. Characters I haven’t used in anything stay in the main folder and only go to a sub-folder when they are used – unless they are a first name very minor character who only has a couple of jobs to do in a story. Then they stay in the main folder. That’s how my ‘database’ works. It may not be a database in the sense of holding all the information within a single computer application, but it is a database in the old sense of file drawers in some sort of order kind of way.
Some writers keep their character charts in notebooks. I save paper and ink and just keep it on the computer. I actually store it in the cloud where I can access it with my computer, tablet or phone. It is accessible. It’s all you really need for your characters. You can organize them however you choose. I use sub-folders with the names of series, titles of stand-alone works, or just by name in the main folder. They are easily moved, through drag and drop. I can find what I need when I need it. That is the purpose of a character database.
It’s easily maintained and that’s what counts. It works for me. Sometimes I create a character who never makes it into the story I created it for. That’s OK. The character can go into the database and may find a role in another work. Throw nothing out – at least not a character. You never know where you may use it. So create a folder on your computer, get a notebook, just make your character charts accessible. You won’t regret it.
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