The Importance of a Character List

While outlining my fourth book, I noticed my draft seemed to require more named characters than any of my previous novels.

Well, turns out I was wrong.

I’ve wanted to create a list of all my characters for some time now, and have put it off somewhat because it meant reviewing Sanity’s Flaw once more. Since I’m currently preparing it for printing, it seemed an appropriate time, and so, in the last week, I’ve crafted an Excel sheet of every named character that appeared in that first novel.

In design, the sheet is rather rudimentary. Across the top (bolded and underlined, to stand out just a tad) are these column descriptors: First Name, Last Name, Physical Description, Family Relationship, Job Description and Misc. Detail. Whenever I come across a character in the book, I fill in as many of the columns as I can (which, given Sanity’s Flaw’s overall lack of description, meant leaving many blank).

Next to these are the names of my novels and short stories (Sanity’s Flaw, The Nobodies, etc.). Cells in these columns are filled with one of two colors, either dark gray or light gray. Dark gray indicates the character appeared in that novel; light gray implies they were mentioned.

To my surprise, there were fifty characters in Sanity’s Flaw. Absolutely insane.

What’s even more fun is that ten of these have names that begin with J, there’s a Mario and a Maria, two Marvins (though that was on purpose), and both a Mikey and a Mickey.

Had I created this listing prior to publishing Sanity’s Flaw, I likely would have adjusted some of the names. And while I could still do so prior to the print publication, I rather like it now. It’s kind of how I knew five or six different Michaels growing up. Life is only random to a point.

That said, this list has already had a tangible effect on my writing. I’ll be renaming one of the protagonists in Trezka since there are already two with the same name in Sanity’s Flaw.

I guess my mind really likes J’s.