Scrivener Work Flow for Scenes with Many Characters

Last week I was working on a difficult scene in which my protagonist is thrown into a new situation full of new characters. This is always challenging to execute, because I don’t want to overwhelm the reader with a slew of new names all at once. I have to decide which characters I will name at first, and relegate others to physical or personal characteristics— “a red-haired young man,” “a brunette with a vicious sneer,” etc. 

So, in order to write this scene, I needed to be able to see my new characters—preferably all of them at once, while also being able to quickly access character details like personality type and family name. With a bit of playing around, I found an orientation in Scrivener that suited my needs. (Note: I’m using Scrivener 3)

First:

Split the screen vertically, with the scene on the left and your character folder on the right in cork board view. Arrange the characters so that they are all together, so you don’t have to skim through irrelevant characters.

Second:

In the inspector, go to bookmarks for the scene. Drag and drop all of the characters who will appear in this scene from the binder. Now, if you click on a name, the information for that character will appear below. (I also shared my character creation templates for Scrivener recently, if you’re interested in that).

Third:

Adjust the view until you’re happy. I select “Hide Binder” to give me more space. (Everything I might need to consult is already in my bookmarks, so I don’t need it). Then I adjust the view of the cork board to get my preferred balance for seeing a good number of characters without making the pictures too small.

Fourth:

Lock all of this in place. I lock the notes to the first scene into the inspector, so that if I click over on the cork board I won’t lose my bookmarks. I then lock the cork board in place so that I don’t accidentally click on a card and lose all of my pictures.

That’s it!

I like this layout because I can both see the cards and access the information contained within them without having to navigate back and forth. This orientation would work well for any project that relies on visual notes. I would imagine for a contemporary book, it might be nice for referencing real pictures of the setting, for example.

Anyway, I hope that was helpful. Happy writing!

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unsplash-logoDamian Zaleski

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