12 November 2009

Keep Track of Your Characters

by Carrie Bailey

How hard is it to keep track of characters in your NaNoWriMo novel when your fingers are flying over the keypad and word count is the only rule?  Difficult, but not impossible.  You can use a Quick Table to help.  No matter what word software you write with, there are simple tables available.  “Insert” a table into your word document periodically when you add new characters.  Highlight an entire row or column to add more or delete them.

Answer the important questions like who, what, when, where, and why for each character as you go.  Then as you are writing you can go back and add new attributes. These simple tables help you recall where items and even characters are located.

Here’s an example of one for my Nanowrimo novel:








Chapter One

Suede Jacket,
age 13


Farmer Eldrich

Eldrich Farm

Chapter One


Indigo’s contract

The General

Town Square

End of
Chapter One

Fat, horse,
light green robes

Buys Indigo’s
contract for his service


The Manor

Chapter Two

Sandy hair,

General’s charge

The Cook

The Manor

Chapter Two

Scar, former


Once you have these tables in place, you'll save time re-reading and never drop a character or forget about a potential plot device.  Your writing will never suffer from inconsistencies.  More than that, with the information visible and organized, you can pound out a few hundred words confident that you haven't missed a beat.

Have I actually used this table?  No, no, this is what organized people do.  I waste hours re-reading and avoid mentioning specific characters and their possessions for pages, because I can't quite recall when or where I wrote about it.  Or, I write another lengthy word document full of lists and random descriptions rather than tables.  You know the kind, the short and dull novel about the novel...yes, I do that.

However, it is a nice table and were I the organized type of person I dream to become, I would use it.  Plus, it only took a minute or two rather than the hours that slip away when I write the novel's companion. 


  1. haha! Love the advice you don't follow. Good idea. I use something similar, though I generally draw up a table in excel, listing where they are first mentioned. I organize it in different ways. My last manuscript took place in 3 locations, so it was organized by where the characters were first introduced, and then suborganized by how they were known to the MC. I usually have a comments column as well for additional notes.

    Your table is nice and simple and would work well for most books I think. Well done!

  2. I am going to start using them :). What I like most about the idea is that I don't need a separate document with Quick Tables, it's like a bitty excell file in Word.


  3. I couldn't make a table because that would take too much time! That comes when I edit.

  4. I write the information out on paper. Almost too simple, though.

  5. I love this. I always lose track. I think I'll be using it. Thank you so much!

  6. I just started using it on my Nanowrimo novel and it has been a huge help :)