Character Sketches: Your Input

For a while I’ve been thinking about the best way to put together character sketches for characters in all of the Wilderness novels and GH. Not a small undertaking, I know, but I think of it as a long-term project.  

There are many websites/wikis devoted to book series and movies that do a good job of this.  Examples include Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games) has a character sketch which is exhaustive and very carefully put together and  Debra Morgan (Dexter) is another example of a very intense and detailed character breakdown. Wikipedia has character pages for fictional characters across time and space (here’s the Wikipedia very elegant approach to Katniss Everdeen). Game playing sites go to great lengths and make very complicated character infoboxes.  Wikia provides an example character template which would not work for fictional characters, but could be adapted. It’s interesting to see what they throw in, at any rate:

Syntax
{{Character Infobox
| name                     =
| image                    =
| alternate name           =
| aka                      =
| d.o.b.                   =
| age                      =
| birthplace               =
| residence                =
| race                     =
| height                   =
| weight                   =
| shoe size                =
| hair                     =
| eyes                     =
| body shape               =
| tattoos                  =
| jewellery                =
| dress                    =
| appearance-other form    =
| dress                    =
| emblem                   =
| markings                 =
| accent                   =
| language                 =
| weapons                  =
| transport                =
| motto(s)                 =
| favourite music          =
| likes                    =
| dislikes                 =
| pastimes                 =
| family                   =
| powers                   =
| fighting style           =
| food                     =
| businesses               =
| lovers                   =
}}

 

janeaustencslistAt Pemberly.com (a kind of Jane Austen super wiki) there’s a simple but effective approach, as you see here to the left. Click for a larger image.

Every once in a while I spend a half hour experimenting in the best way to do this for my characters. Full disclosure: this is something I should have been doing since the beginning.

The easiest way would be to do it just like the Pemberly folk have done for Jane Austen’s characters. So for example anybody who wants to contribute would go to the page for a given novel and leave a comment (if this were a proper wiki, you could edit the page yourself, but in this case, a comment would be enough):

Endless Forest (W6). Mr. Turner. Shopkeeper in Johnstown  who sells Ethan and Callie supplies.

That would certainly be a great start if I could compile a complete list of all characters showing up in the novels.  But historical novelists are OCD by nature and so I also imagine a more detailed accounting, something like the following, for characters who are more substantial. Rough example:

FieldDetailFieldDetail
Full NameEthan MiddletonImage/AppearanceBlond, middle height, elegant build
AKAn/a
Role__Primary __Secondary __Transient
Date of Birth1792
Place of Birth[[Paradise]], Hamilton County, NYAppearing inW1, W3, W4, W6
Date of Death
Place of DeathHudson River (steam boat accident)
OccupationOwner of most of the town of Paradise, town manager and plannerQuote"I'm a cousin, but I go home eventually to an empty house and I don't like it. You're alone in the world too, and we have always got on just fine. I thought we could help each other." W6
BiographySon of [[Julian Middleton]] and [[Kitty Witherspoon Middleton Todd]], nephew of [[Elizabeth Middleton Bonner]] born after his father's death. Raised by his mother and step-father [[Richard Todd]]. As a young man spends two years. .Marriage or other romantic relationships--Harrison Quinlan, short term
--[[Calista WIlde Middleton]] married 1824
SourcesW1, W3, W4, W6, GHChildrenGuardian to the children of [[Jennet Scott Bonner][ and [[Luke Scott Bonner]] after their mother's death
Factual Conflicts

Before this could get started there’s a big decision to be made: should all of the character sketches be folded into  The Gilded Hour kinda-wiki or should I start a separate wiki for the Wilderness novels. The thing is, I don’t expect this to take off right away or at all, even, so that’s something that could be discussed. So the question is, if you are one of those people who re-reads the entire series on a regular basis (and bless you if you are), would you be interested in participating in the very brief way described first above? You’re plowing through Lake in the Clouds for the xxth time, and you come across Captain Mudge and you wonder, hey, has he been entered into the character list yet?   So you’d go to the page for Lake in the Clouds and leave a comment:

LitC W3. Captain Mudge. Captain of the ship that takes the escaping slaves to Canada.

Now, somebody might come along and say, wait, he has a first name. Or, he’s too big a character for a one line entry, he needs a full template because ….

So then that would be a debate. This kind of discussion is common on real full-size wikis, because the community puts the entries together and debates about the best way to do it. I don’t imagine that anybody has a lot of time or energy to devote to something like this, but maybe contributing once in a while when you come across something — that would be the idea. 

If you know of a website that uses character templates that you like, please leave a link in the comments. I’d be interested in seeing what appeals.

Now I have to go back to writing a very difficult scene. 

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16 Replies to “Character Sketches: Your Input”

  1. I love this idea. Look at the Wheel of Time Wiki. It’s pretty comprehensive.

    I do a spreadsheet. I’m crazy like that.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful idea and would be glad to help if I can.

    Off topic but are you aware of a Cinemax series called “The Knick” which is set in 1901 NYC and involves a hospital and evidently discussions of women’s reproductive rights. At least according to the review I just read.

    1. I love “The Knick”. Great show. I re-watched an episode just to get a visual reference of the hospital & NYC while I read The Guilded Hour.

  3. Loved “The Gilded Hour”. Now going back to read your other books. You’re a great story- teller and historian. Thanks for a great book. Where have you been all my life? Now going back to read earlier books.

    1. Hi Jane — I’m so pleased you enjoyed Gilded Hour and took the time to tell me so. Thank you. I have this urge to tell you that Into the Wilderness was my first novel, and could use a little polish — but my editor and agent would yell at me, so I won’t say that.

  4. I can’t really comment on wikis really, since I haven’t had much to do with them, but I do have a huge resource of data at my finger tips, usually with notes on books and pages. At last count my Bonner Gedcom sat at 727, although there are a lot of ‘real’ people in there too. Anyway, it’s there if you want it. :)

  5. So is this proof that Ethan is gay? Not that it’s a big deal but in the past you’ve only speculated.

    Marriage or other romantic relationships –Harrison Quinlan, short term
    –[[Calista WIlde Middleton]] married 1824

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