Persona: Your Characters In Depth

Like many writers out there, I have a book in the works. And also like many writers, my great American novel is still a bit of a rough draft. Or I suppose “idea” is a more accurate description of my book. Alright, fine, I want to write a novel and I haven’t put down a word yet.

What any great story needs is amazing characters, and to do that you really need to get inside their heads. You have to take your time and craft an amazing story full of people who you want to love, as well as those you want to hate. It’s a lot of pressure. Fortunately, there’s Mariner Persona.

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Playing the Role

Talk to any great writer and they’ll tell you that character development is critical in a good story. You want to craft a tale that speaks to your goals, but if the reader can’t get relate to the characters or at least empathize with them, you have nothing. The key to a good story is the people who live inside it.

Fortunately, you start off with a blank slate — kind of like how my book is today. Sigh.

Fortunately, you start off with a blank slate — kind of like how my book is today. Sigh.

To do that, you need to flesh out your characters as best as possible. This means learning and talking about every detail of each one: what they do for lunch, their height, general body type, quirks, habits, hobbies and so on. The more information you can provide for each character, the easier it will be to write them into the story. If you know that Tammy loves to go shopping, has a thing for Chad and hates Cindy, then you’ll be able to accurately write a scene where the two talk about their mutual interest in Chad while hanging out at the mall. It’s all in the details.

Meet the People

Persona’s role then, is to facilitate the character making process. This is not your next word processor, so understand that this isn’t a Scrivener replacement or something similar. Instead, you have a focused app designed to make characters and understand how they interact with each other.

Peter Parker, this is your life.

Peter Parker, this is your life.

To really dive into things, I decided to build a few characters in Persona and play things out. Since I don’t want to give away all of the secrets of my upcoming book (a dentist with an eye patch! This is revolutionary work!), I decided to use a few of the characters from the Marvel comic book universe, specifically, Spider-Man.

Know Your Role

Building a character is kind of like creating a character in a role playing game like Dungeons & Dragons. You start with the basics like a name, height, age, etc., then add in more details like their occupation, hobbies and so on. You can even include an image if you have a picture of someone who you imagine for the character. But the key factor in these people is their archetype, and that’s critical to how everyone interacts.

Just a few of your Archetype options.

Just a few of your Archetype options.

At their core, everyone in Persona is whittled down to four basic archetypes: Hero, Heroine, Villain and Villainess. In each of those groups are eight further breakdowns to narrow down the character’s information. For example, I put down Dr. Otto Octavius (known as Dr. Octopus to most muggles) as a Villain/Evil Genius. Then there’s one more step, which is a style. Each archetype has two available styles, so for our misguided scientist, I marked him as a Mad Scientist (how appropriate!).

If you want to learn more about an Archetype prior to creating a character, you can do that by clicking the Learn icon. Here you get all of the basics on how each type of person thinks, their backgrounds and more, which gives you a ton of information to work with.

The Sweet Science

To the right of the character creation section of the app are two headings: Archetype Info and Examples. While trying to figure out what your character is really like, knowing how their chosen archetype would react in certain situations is key to knowing how they interact with their world. For example, Dr. Octopus is similar to Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, as well as Hans Gruber from the original Die Hard. Knowing that, I have a good comparison to how he would handle meeting a hero like Spider-Man.

This is just the start of what the Archetype window provides.

This is just the start of what the Archetype window provides.

The Archetype Info is also packed with goodies. You can see qualities, flaws, occupations, background and so much more. Persona gives you every bit of information on that person and that type, giving you lots of resources to work with when writing your book.

A Love/Hate Relationship

Once you have a few characters created, you can then see how they work together (or don’t work, depending on the situation), by clicking the Interact icon. Here, each of the characters are broken down into pairings. By first selecting Doctor Otto Octavius, I can then see his pairing with Mary Jane Parker, Normon Osborn and Peter Parker. I can find out how each coupling clash, mesh and change. Now I only had four characters going here, so there were only four groups to work with. But there can be dozens of people in a book; Persona makes working with all of them easier.

Coupling

If you want to pair people up or just create different groups, that’s an option as well. To create a regular Group, it’s a matter of clicking on the cog in the lower left-hand corner and selecting “New Group,” and the same applies for SmartGroups as well. Just like in iTunes, a regular Group is created by just dragging and dropping the person into the set. If you want to create a SmartGroup, you pick characteristics or traits to narrow things down, then Persona does the work for you.

Turns out that Mary Jane and Peter Parker go well together. Who knew?

Turns out that Mary Jane and Peter Parker go well together. Who knew?

However, this is when I ran into a problem. I tried to make a SmartGroup for the bad guys that was pretty basic: the Type was set to Villains. But even though I had two villains in the system, it just wouldn’t work — same thing for heroes. Instead, I manually created groups, and that was a bit disappointing. I did get SmartGroups to work for other options, but it still wasn’t as powerful as I would’ve liked.

Character Flaws

On its surface, Persona looks like it’s a bit limited in scope. I thought that it was little more than a character generator at first, but knowing how the characters interact and how they pair up is quite handy. There is a depth of knowledge in this app that goes far beyond what you first see, making it a great tool.

The built-in character archetype structure.

The built-in character archetype structure.

But it’s not perfect. Aside from the SmartGroup, the next issue I have is with the price. $49.99 is pretty steep for what you get out of it, and I think the high cost may be scaring people away. That’s too bad, because it’s an amazing app for a writer, and yet, it’s still a niche program. It’s like a tool for the mechanic who has specialized tools in their toolbox — how often will they really use the trim panel removal tool for a 2004–2008 Chevrolet Silverado, anyways?

The End

I like Persona, I really do. It’s pretty, fun to use and makes the process of creating characters easy and enjoyable to do. But man, I just can’t get over the price. If I hadn’t received a promo code to review the app, I’m not sure I would’ve paid $50 to use it, because how many characters am I ever really going to build? 10? 30? 100? Unless I switch to writing books full time, I don’t see it being worth the extra cash.

However, if you are a writer, or just want a way to file and sort all of those characters you use for your comic books or short stories, Persona is a great app to own. It’s pricey, yes. But if you’re making characters for whatever your project happens to be, then it could come in very handy.


Summary

Create characters for your next great novel, comic book or D&D game with an app that gives you lots of options for a pretty steep price.

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