Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: Character Writer 3.1

A while back I purchased the Character Writer 3.1 from The Writer's Store. I had been looking for different writing softwares when this popped up, on sale, and after researching it a bit I decided to make the purchase. I was hoping this software would be an amazing tool for developing characters because there's nothing I love more than sitting down and developing a new life for a new story.

A month ago I moved, and ever since then have been sick and pretty much holed up in my living room, stealing my dad's comfy green recliner. The excessive time I've had to just sit and think produced another story idea, and finally I had time to really sit down and use that Character Writer. So here's what I found...

When you first open Character Writer 3.1, you can immediately start filling in a character's basic information, from their name to their catchphrase and story goal. A file can be made for each story/novel you are working on, and within that file you can have a subfile created for each character.

From there you simply keep hitting the continue button, answering basic physical appearance questions and then, my favorite, personality questions. This program takes you through the Enneagram personality-typing system to help you better understand just where your character is coming from. 

After choosing a type, you then answer a series of questions based on your choice that will start making you reevaluate your character's background and story goal. You can also choose multiple disorders, from personality to psychotic to sleep disorders. You can honestly have a heyday reading about each disorder and applying different ones to your characters...just make sure you stick to what really fits your character, because it's easy to go overboard. *cough*

After the psychology of your character is founded, then you can dig into background. What makes your character do what he does? What significant event in his past made her like this? You answer another series of questions, all different but set up the same way, before heading into dialogue and relationships. 

If you have created more than one character, there is a relationship generator in which you can enter in a secondary character's type and see how he or she might react with the main character. It's a handy little tool to see just how these two people might clash or work together in real life. Here's an example from one of my own projects in which my main character, a type 5, is placed against his love interest, a type 8, and his sister, a type 9: 

By this point, you've completed most of your character development. There are further pages to write out story beats, note sheets, specific scenes that come to your head, etc., but the meat of it is done, and believe you me, I'm always exhausted by this point. 


While this program is extensive, one thing I would still recommend is taking a piece of paper and writing out your character basics first. Write a brief description of their background, their interests, what they want. It will make the process go by much faster and you won't feel the need to skip around or "come back to it later," and it will allow for more creativity when it comes to fleshing out details.

The Character Writer 3.1 is an excellent tool for getting to know your characters deeply and solidifying their story in your mind; it's more than a character writer, but really helps you grasp where you want your story to go. After using this, I felt more prepared to write my novel. The program definitely works best for main characters, or any character you want to flesh out, but you can still use the basics to keep an eye on your secondary characters. 

Overall, I'd give the program 4.5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone looking for help in developing better characters. If you're interested, you can buy the program here. Let me know if you've tried the program and what your thoughts are!

(**Please note that I was not given a trial run from The Writer's Store in exchange for a review, but simply purchased the program on my own and wanted to post a review so other's might know about it.)


  1. Hi from the U.K. Sarah, and thanks for the review, which pretty much covers all the bases for me. I've just downloaded the trial and found a deal online for just shy of $50.
    A year later, are you still happy with the software? I'm trying to decide on this, or on Persona, from Mariner Software and don't want to waste writing time playing around with different demos.
    And could I ask how you use the completed characters?
    As my project is historical fiction based on an infantry regiment in WW1, there will be upwards of 80 characters to build. When Cwriter helps bring them into existence, what then?
    If I develop characters in say, Scrivener, they sit nested inside the story. Is there an export facility, or have I not grasped what Cwriter can do fully?
    Hope you can help!
    Thanks, Jeff P.

    1. Hello Jeff,
      First, sorry for my delayed response; I've been taking a break from the blog. Thanks for your questions and I'll answer them to the best of my ability.
      Yes, I am still happy with the software. I don't use it as much as I expected, but I also haven't been writing much for stories lately. I'm not familiar with Persona, so I can't give advice there (though if you can bear hearsay, I've heard that it's stereotypical, whereas I feel Character Writer gives me guidance but freedom to create the character I want).

      I always pull CW up on my computer while I'm writing, so that I can quickly reference a completed character or notes I have written down in the story. I find it's very helpful in keeping me from rabbit trailing with my characters.

      As for your own work, that's up to you. Upwards of 80 characters is a lot to manage, and I find Character Writer is simple in it's organization. Once you've finished creating your characters, you have a concise reference tool that's easily accessible and categorized. You can flip through each tab of categories for your character, or use the note sheet to bring tidbits of notes together, so you have one quick character board to glance at for easy reference when in the middle of writing. You cannot pull up 2 characters at once, though every character is listed in a side bar and you can flip back and forth.

      I haven't had the chance to test out Scrivener personally, so forgive me if I don't quite understand you're question. I'll say that Character Writer 3.1 is specifically for characters; there is no room to write your story. CW 3.1 is it's own program that you can keep on the desktop of your computer and pull up when you need to; it will not be linked to your other writing software or word files. If I am mistaken in this or haven't discovered another way to keep files, my apologies for false information!

      I hope this answers some of your questions. Good luck in your writing!