Keeping Track of Your Characters

I just had an OMG moment while writing book 2 of Mik Murdoch, currently titled, Mik Murdoch and the Power Within. I have been moving along quite nicely in the writing when I realized something. I had named one of my new, main female protagonists the same as one of my baddies from the first book.

That would never do! I mean, it is theoretically possible that two people will have the same name (obviously) but, with all the names in the world, should I be naming two characters the same?

Considering that one is a protagonist and the other an antagonist, I would say not. It’s much too confusing for one thing.

So I went back to the drawing board and my character now has a brand-new name.

Search and replace is a wonderful function.

But it reminded me of a faux pas I made in the first book. I discovered I had given Mik’s mother two totally different names when I was going through the proof copy of the book. Not quite the same problem but similar in nature. Simply put, I lost track of my character’s important information.

Fortunately, I am using a tool that allows me to quickly search, replace and even keep notes about things like characters, plot, settings and so on. That tool, in this case is Scrivener.

Now, before you accuse me of trying to write a commercial for Scrivener, I realize that there are other tools out there that writers use to achieve the same results as I get. You can use Wiki’s, dedicated documents and so on. I happen to use Scrivener because it allows me to put all the details and notes I want into the file without affecting the writing in any way.

So, I immediately created a section to document my characters. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner. I’ve done exactly the same thing in Boyscouts of the Apocalypse. It shouldn’t have been such a discovery. When I went through the exercise, I found nine fairly major characters to put into the notes. That wasn’t even counting characters that were indirectly referenced.

That may not sound like much, but, if you had asked me minutes earlier the names of the characters in this book, I would only have given you about half of those (maybe).

Still, it is something I have seen before and I now have a way to deal with it properly. I can even take that information forward to the next book to prevent such duplication in the future. And, maybe I can use it to build a Wiki for my readers to refer to later too. Call it supplemental or additional features. 🙂

Whatever you call it, it is useful and makes my job as a writer easier.



  1. I’ve done things like this, heck I think that we all have. My biggest problem is when I am trying to come up with names in the first place, Jack, Sally, Charlie, Jill, Meghan, Kate all these very familiar names come to mind. (Of course there are my kids name too that also come to mind but I am at least smart enough not to use those.)

    Since writing for me is often an, oh my goodness I need to get this idea down before I forget it, type endeavor, I often go with what ever name pops in my head at the moment. But just like naming a child, naming a character is important. Their name often portrays a lot about who they are. There are a lot of jokes about Ishmael Horatio Wang, but even this non sequitur moniker says something about who he is. He is telling the story of a captain, hell bend on a quest. Thank goodness it does not end as badly as Captain Ahab. Now not every Ishmael is not going to be the teller of Captain stories but you can bet that Mr. Lowell took great pain in naming our hero.

    The same can be said for most characters. Their name effects who they are, what they are like and how they react to certain situation. So when I give character a common name, it effects how the story I write about them forms. Then when I got back and change the name during the editing process, I often find myself rewriting entire sections of the story to match the new name. This can really mess with your head. In one case, I wrote a fantasy and named the main character Jack, just to get the story out. It ended up being rather whimsical because, really, who has ever heard of an epic Fantasy character named Jack. It was not the story that I had intended to write. On top of that, when I tried to change the name to something more typically fantasy, the story no longer fit the new character even after major rewrites. Needless to say that story is in a drawer and probably will stay there forever.

    So there you have it, my moment of craziness over character names.

  2. When I first started to write, one novel in the works, I used to laugh about people losing track of details like this. One novel is easy. Four, not so much. I’ve been keeping track in a notebook, but I may have to try out something like this. Thanks

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.