Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Bibles

When you write a lot of books, details tend to get lost in the cracks. How do you keep track of all those details?

And then there's the concept of names. My hairdresser asked me once how I come up with names for all my characters. Well, I have a variety of sources, from sports figures to tombstones to actors. I still have to remember them all.

I have a database certification, which means I use my skills to track my book details with a program I've written. When I come across a name I might want to use, I add it. When I use it, I assign it to the book. More than names, I add the fictional places I create so I don't have to go back to look up "what was the name of that town I made up?" or "What was the name of the restaurant in town?" This is especially helpful when I'm writing a series. 

Character names should be varied. If all your characters' names start with the letter M, a reader is going to get confused very quickly. Which "M" was that? There are occasions when "like" first initials have a place, or homonyms, but that should be the exception rather than the rule. For instance, I have twin sisters named Molly and Polly in FAMILY ALCHEMY. Families often stick to an initial when naming kids. My stepson and his wife have named all their children (and they have many) using her first initial for their daughters and his first initial for their sons. I have Max and Marissa who are brother and sister in MIST ON THE MEADOW. But when it comes time to add a new character, I want to look for a different first letter. With my database, I can sort the "available" names I've collected alphabetically (names I haven't used in other books or "this" book).

My database is NOT like Scrivener, which is designed to organize your thoughts in addition to gathering this information. Mine is strictly for organizing books, characters and places--a quick reference point. Which brings me to a question. Is this something other authors might find useful? How do other authors track their series? I imagine for authors like me with an extensive backlist, it would require a lot of backtracking, but for newer authors, or authors who are looking for a way to get organized, it might be a useful tool to share. What do you think? 

(You can see a demo on my website... "For Authors" page.)


  1. Wish I'd had something like this when I started. Right now, I'm using a simple spreadsheet, but I never track the things I need--like which floor is Horace Blackthorne's office on, or what kind of a door does it have? Glass paned? Is his name on it? Black or gold lettering?

    1. Exactly! What was the name of the bar they visited? I didn't start until a couple of books it (and it shows). Now, I couldn't live without my database!

  2. I'm probably not in the target market for your database (not least because I do all my writing on Linux), but a couple of possible improvements come to mind...

    Firstly, is the application aware of time? If your character is 29 in book 1, he's not going to stay 29 for the rest of the series (unless the whole series takes place over less than a year).

    Secondly, is it aware of relationships or interactions between characters? Can you tell it, for instance, that character A is the son of character B, or that characters C and D started dating on X and got married on Y? For a small number of characters, it's maybe more trouble than it's worth to model this in a way that gives enough flexibility for everyone's needs. (Though one of the items on my ever-lengthening to-do list is to look into using a graph database for this.)

    1. There is a comment box that allows for these things to be addressed. As I was filling in information this morning, I added descriptions that I needed to remember of what a house looked like. There is a place to add relationships. It isn't perfect, but it can accommodate most of what people need to remember when writing. The time setting can be applied to the time frame the story covers, i.e., over a period of x months/years or what have you. It is not a "one size fits all," but I think folks can tailor it to suit their needs if they're so inclined to try it. For others, it may be more trouble than its worth. All depends on the author and their books! :-)