Let’s talk characters. No, not the kind that make up type-face, the kind that drive our character-driven plots. I prefer to use a Dossier file-type to save character information. You can create a new dossier in many ways. The easiest is to go to the Create menu on the main window and choose “new Dossier”. After you name the file, you’ll be presented with a window of lines much like the wide-ruled notebook paper my daughter uses to practice her letters.
When you double-click on any of the lines, you’ll notice that it has two fields. The top half of the line is the “title” and the bottom half is the “caption”. From the screen shot you’ll notice that the caption can be as long as you need it to be. Each pair is an “item”.
At this point, you may be wondering how to get from there to the lovely screen-shots shown here. For me, I like to start by choosing titles. From the Dossier’s menu, click on “Titles”. The software comes pre-loaded with several options for characters, places, and some other world-building options. When you pick a set of Titles, the software will fill in the titles for your dossier. Think of this like a question/answer or character-building questionnaire. You answer the questions in the caption space.
Squint hard at the left hand side of the screen-shots and you’ll see a tiny icon-based menu. This is *important*. The icons represent (from top down) save, view, add a new item, move up, move down, and delete item. If you don’t like one of the titles, click on it and hit the X icon. Want a new one? Click the add item and put the title in that you want. Re-arrange them. If you have a standard character questionaire that you want, by all means, set it up. Once you have it just the way you want, click “Titles” and then “Save Title List” — you can name the list whatever you like or you can save it over one of the existing lists to make that list fit the way you work.
Now the software is customized with your list. You can fill in the information you have when you get it. If you need to store some type of unique information (in my last novel it was “psionic scent”) you can add that title.
By clicking the View icon, you will change how the information is presented on the screen. This is a rotating toggle — just click it until you are happy.
But what about pictures?
There are two ways to get pictures into the dossier. First, if you just want one picture, click “Content” and then “Image” and pick an image you have already added to the program. My favorite way to add images to a dossier is by “association.” We’ll talk about associations in another post, but the concept is that like-named things are related.
Create a gallery that is named exactly the same as your dossier and add as many pictures as you like to that gallery. When you open up the dossier the next time — poof. The gallery will have become a part of your dossier.
You can use dossiers for any type of world-building or historical research that involves this type of question/answer, title/caption format. You do not have to include images unless you have or want or need them.
A side-note about those images. Remember that this isn’t an image manipulation program. The images are associated with the dossier and displayed in the box available. Graphic minded individuals will realize that images may not fit in the box. You may want it centered or left aligned or…whatever. Click on the picture. It’ll change its alignment. Just like the view toggle, there is a range of views, just keep clicking until you’re happy. If you aren’t happy…well, you have two choices. Live with it or open the picture in a graphic manipulation program (Paint, Gimp, Adobe Photoshop®…whatever) and make it the way you want it.
Remember how I started off saying that “Create” – “New Dossier” was the easiest way to create your dossiers? Well, there are many other ways — arguably easier. Suppose you’re working with a mind-map and creating a family tree of characters. If you change the mind-map mode to “Dossier Mode” then whenever you double-click on one of your cards it will create a dossier named the same as the title of that item. The same trick works in any file type that has a “Mode” option. Pretty cool, huh? Okay, maybe confusing. We’ll talk more about modes and associations…later.
Just don’t forget my #1 rule for working with Liquid Story Binder: stop playing with the toys and get back to writing. You only get to play with the dossiers if you are actively creating characters or working on world-building.
Did I mention it has a random character generator? That’s for another day… get back to writing!