During one of my weekly writing group sessions, our host, outstanding author Hazel Manuel  brought up an idea that she and another of our colleagues discussed at a recent lunch (I’d name the other person but I haven’t been able to ask permission yet). This idea was to use the Myers-Briggs Test as a way to define the personalities of the characters in our stories.

So what’s the Myers-Briggs Test?

The Myers-Briggs is a personality test that was developed by mother/daughter dynamic duo of psychology Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers which expanded on theories first put forth by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It uses a series of questions to place aspects of one’s personality into definable categories.

Each of the categories are assigned two letters of which the test taker will receive one depending on how the questions are answered. After all scoring is complete the subject will have a four letter code that can be used to further examine parts of their personality.

The letter pairs and their root words are:

Extraversion – Introversion




When I took this free online version myself, I discovered my code was ENTP. This wasn’t surprising. I’ve taken the test as part of various staff meeting activities in the past with similar if not the results. Repeatable results are the cornerstone of good science!

Now what does this have to do with our characters? (more…)

So, you’re deep into planning your nine book epic space fantasy focusing on twelve equally important families from different planets. What’s that you say? There are divorces and adoptions, and bastards? Oh My!

How are you going to keep all that straight? How much graph paper will you burn through trying to lay out this tangled web of genetics?

The answer could be “a lot” or “none.” I swear. Here, check this thing out.

I get jazzed about ancestry both in my books and real life. It’s like a scavenger/treasure/easter egg hunt all in one. I got deep into a search of my own heritage a few months ago and found a simple, streamlined family tree website called Family Echo. It’s easy to use and does a great job of organizing your info. I’ve managed to trace one of my family lines back to the 1500’s and the program handled the volume of data just fine. It would let me go on forever if I was able to do so.

The best part is, none of the people you add have to be real. Zorkblat born on Bleetnar Prime in 6743 P.C. can fit just as nicely as Bob Jones born in Akron, OH, in 1974 A.D. There are no restrictions to the data you enter and if you sign up (free, no spam) then you can save your progress and edit as you go. Here’s a quick mock-up to give you a taste of some of the features.


Family Echo Demo


If you’re a planner or more likely an over-planner, then you need to put this baby in your digital tool belt. Check it out, have fun, and you know, if you want to write me in as the grandparent of the mistress of the cousin of the main character, I’d be okay with that.

(Note: I don’t get paid to endorse this stuff. I just like it and think that you will too.)


Hero Machine 3 is useful. Really. It’s not a productivity destroying distract-o-tron that makes for a great excuse to not write. Well… I mean, sure yeah, okay but it’s also a great character planning tool. Honest.

There are two ways I find Hero Machine 3 to be helpful when I write. My main use is for character modeling and design. Specifically for characters that already exist in my stories.

It’s hard for me to keep track of how I’ve described the looks and attire of all the characters in my novels or short stories or whatever. Did the priest wear slacks or khakis? Was there a blood stain on the microbiologist’s lab coat or her shirt?

I fix this problem by building my characters in Hero Machine then printing them to make visual quick reference cards. These keep my words flowing rather than having to stop and remember or search for details I’ve written about chapters ago. It’s very easy to save .jpeg, .png, or .pdf versions digitally but I have specific reasons why I prefer printing the cards and I’ll get to that at the end this post.

Heromachine 3 Demo1 (more…)