Writing a book and got a storyline that covers generations and a sprawling set of characters? Lost in the sauce trying to keep them all straight? Forgotten who was married to whom and where and when? Or have you just run out of ideas about how to individualize your characters?
Try organizing them by using genealogy software.
Good genealogy software will not only help you keep your characters straight, but prompt you for more details about them. Where did they go to school, when and what did they study? When were they baptized and/or buried. Who did they marry, divorce, have children with, when, where and how many?
There's usually room for photographs, too, images you can generate yourself or find elsewhere. By the time you're done entering birthdays, death days, graduation days, you'll have generated a lot of information about your characters. Good software helps the writer write books by also offering a history window that tells you what was going on in the world during any given character's lifespan. You'll might suddenly realize that your storyline happens to coincide with the time period John Lennon was shot. Your character, you suddenly decide, was a Beatles' fan and therefore would've felt something when the news came out.
So in addition, to helping you flesh out your characters, genealogy software can help you anchor your story in history. A specific event might not be immediately relevant to your story, but it will flavor your character. There are certain events, for example, that freeze time. Many people remember exactly what they were doing when they learned that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, and now many can say the same about Michael Jackson. Most will have a favorite song that, when heard, reminds them of their high school prom, or freshman year in college, or the girl that got away. A program that offers such convenience as a world timeline can help an author tease out the events that might or might not have impacted or influenced his or her character, i.e. ground a character in his or her period.
If you're a writer looking for a unique way to not only organize but add sparkle to your writing, consider genealogy software. There are a lot of good one's out there. Download a demo and try it, from the writer's point of view.
Persia Walker, a former news writer for The Associated Press, is the award-winning author of HARLEM REDUX and DARKNESS AND THE DEVIL BEHIND ME. Visit her online at http://www.persiawalker.com/ She is also senior editor at Gentle Pen Editorial Services (http://www.gentlepen.com/).