Every writer finds a unique way to discover their characters. I've tried everything from interviews, discovery writing, psychoanalysis, personality tests, and character surveys. These all work.
StoryShop's world cards have been developed with flexibility in mind. We know each of us has a different approach and those approaches are always evolving with the tools we have available. With that in mind, here is a little tutorial on the best ways to leverage StoryShop world cards specifically for discovering and fleshing out your characters.
Luring Complex Characters Out of Your Brain
You're a creative person. The perfect, well-rounded characters are living in your brain. You need tools to help you entice those characters to the surface and document their personalities in a manner that keeps all the little details straight.
One of my favorite strategies for developing characters is discovery writing short stories about their defining moments. I use it as background discovery on my main characters. Plus, when I'm done, I have great bonus content to use for giveaways, etc.
When using StoryShop for this kind of writing, I recommend creating the character cards for the main characters and then using the "pop-out" ability to keep the main character card open while you write. This will allow you to quickly jump back and forth from discovery writing to filling out the character card with important details.
Load Character Reference Images
StoryShop allows you to load multiple images into a galley for each character card. Use a built in image cropper to adjust the images if you like. Any one of the galley images can be chosen as the "avatar" for that character or world card. The avatar is the image that shows up on the card in the World Bar or in the "Cast" section in Beats Mode. So loading at least one image for each character can be really useful for visually tracking and identifying your cast of characters.
While you can snag reference images from just about anywhere online, as long as you aren't going to be reproducing them commercially or sharing them for promotional purposes of any kind, Unsplash is a great resource for royalty-free images that won't get you into trouble.
The leading site in character inspiration images is probably Pinterest, and it is a great site for finding all sorts of character reference images. Keep in mind that most of the images are NOT royalty-free and should NOT be used commercially or promotionally in any way. Loading such images to your StoryShop account simply for creative inspiration is totally legal. Taking a screen shot of your world bar and then sharing that image on social media would NOT be legal if any of the avatar images you upload are not yours to share!
Use the Specific Character Fields to Track Specifics
While filling out details on a character card, keep in mind that StoryShop is designed to track very specific information...if you record it properly. Click the plus sign on the top left of the character card to select the fields you wish to populate on your character card. Rather than documenting everything about your character in a single, general description field, take advantage of unique fields such as: Ethnicity, Gender, Occupation, Habits, Internal Conflicts, Personality, Alignment, and Marital Status.
As we continue to build out StoryShop's intelligence, we'll be able to recognize content from these specific fields in order to give you analytics on your story and/or populate something like a timeline or a map with appropriate information. But for StoryShop to find the information it has to be entered into the right fields by you!
If stories about Veterinarians are trending with certain age groups, and you've entered Veterinarian within the "Occupation" field, we'll be able to match your story with potential readers. If you're character is born on a certain date, and you enter that date in the "Birth Date" field, we'll be able to populate that character's birth on a timeline (at some point in the future when we add the timeline mode!).
Relationships is a unique world card field designed to connect world cards with each other in specific ways. Currently, characters and places can be linked with relationships. For example, a character can be linked as a lover or nemesis to another character. When this relationship is established on one end, it will automatically reciprocate on the other end.
A character can also "hail from," "live in," "rule over" or "destroy" a location. In addition, there are several other relationships to places and characters you can use.
The benefit of using these relationships is for quick reference when navigating from one card to another. Plus, this is another feature StoryShop will continue to develop moving forward to allow you to populate maps, etc.
Aliases and Tags
Aliases are used to keep track of every iteration of your character's name so that character can be tracked throughout the story. For example, you may have a character named His Snippy Royal Highness. But close friends might refer to him as Snip Roy. Strangers might call him Your Highness. Aliases allow you to enter every iteration of the character's name!
Tags are for your own search purposes. If you need to filter the World Bar by a family name or by a faction, tags provide you with extra search terms. Tag characters with terms such as "brat pack" or "royal vampire lineage" so that you can readily filter every member of the "brat pack!"
Character and Location DNA
Finally, let's not forget Character or Location DNA. The DNA field is a random generator pre-loaded with dozens of questions to get you thinking about your characters and/or places. Click on the die and the DNA generator will provide you with a question like, "What are your views on politics?" or "Is marijuana legal in this setting?"
The DNA field is designed to provide you with creative nudges to explore aspects of your character that you may have forgotten about. If you don't like a question, just click on the die to generate a new one.
That covers the ins and outs of leveraging StoryShop world cards while creating and developing your characters via StoryShop! Now go get 'er done! and happy writing!