Character Tracking and To-Do Lists

Hello all, I am relatively new to Scrivener (less than two months compared to some apparent long-time users) but have had a couple of ideas come to mind that would be helpful, at least from my perspective; not sure if they are already doable and I have not figured the features out, or maybe they are just considered unnecessary. Anyway, here they are:

  1. A method for tracking characters throughout chapters/scenes. Sometimes I find it good to back up and, at a glance, see who’s been where and when; it helps me to identify potential character/sub-plot neglect in a story line. As of now, I figure this could be done manually in the notes tab of the inspector but I frequently use that area to compile thoughts that are too large for the synopsis card but not yet ripe enough to mix in with my actual text. Ideally, it would be another tab within the inspector (maybe called “Characters”), containing a check-box list that could be populated with one box for each character desired to be tracked. Then, in each chapter/scene, the writer could just check the box for the characters involved.

  2. A to-do list. I again realize that this is probably one of the primary intended uses for the notes tab of the inspector; however, I find that a great place to put concept-level thoughts. Also, I find actual check-able boxes on to-do lists to be mentally gratifying and excellent quick-reference tools. As phenominal as Scrivener is, I find myself still using paper notes for to-do items and monitoring things that need tracking (I realize Scrivener does not claim to do everything for the writer–but why stop at near-perfect? :smiley: ). As with suggestion #1 above, ideally a new “To-Do” tab in the inspector would allow a list to be created for each chapter/scene and that automatically assign check-able boxes to the left of the bullet-like list. And, again, this would be wonderful information to see when stepping back to see the forrest; even if just a count of how many unchecked to-do items there are for a given chapter/scene.

I apologize if these are functions already included (if so, could someone please instruct me on their use?) or if they are suggestions that have already been ran through the ringer. These are merely humble wishes from a new user that is already absolutely blown away by the software. If nothing else was changed from beta 26, I would still pay full price!


In #1 you are basically talking about Keywords here. Sure, it’s not called “Characters”, but all that means is that someone else can use it to track vegetable names for their recipe book. It keeps Scrivener general purpose, and meanwhile it’s just about as useful as any other dedicated character tracking feature that I’ve seen in any other program. Since you can have however many keywords you want attached to an individual section, they can also be used to track plots, development states, arcs, and so on. It still needs to be fixed, but the keyword search ability will be capable of selecting more than one keyword at once and searching for them. You can do this already, but it currently searches using OR logic instead of AND logic; which is useful for some things, to be fair—but for now you’ll have to weed out false positive if you search for Character X in Plot Y. Keywords can also be displayed on index cards, as pieces of “tape” along the side (or, if they can’t right now they will be in the next beta release; I forget when that was implemented)—so you can also get a good overview of which characters are involved in which scenes just by looking at a corkboard.

The other answer here, if you are talking about POV and not character participation in the scene, is the colour label. A lot of people like to use colour labels for POV because you can tint so many different things in the interface with it. Whatever you use for the label can give you single-glance overviews of information even in the Binder, if you tint rows or icons; and of course index cards have those corner tabs.

#2: You could maybe use notes for this, but I like using index cards for to do items. There is even a built-in Status type for just this very purpose. Yeah, it might feel a little weird using something that you otherwise use for whole scenes (or even chapters) just to make a one-liner (maybe embellished a bit with the synopsis), but it’s really easy and fast to do—and when you are done with them you can either set a label or move them to a “Done” folder somewhere. Try storing ToDo items beneath the scene files themselves. You’ve got available hierarchy; might as well use it. If you take to moving them to a Done folder, then the presence of items beneath scenes would be a tip-off as to how much left you’ve identified as needing to be done, and which items are closest to being ready. That option to show the child count of items in the Binder would come in very useful here.

So in conclusion, a general thing about Scrivener is that it is more of a tool-kit style application. While a lot of programs have Features for stuff like this, Scrivener has a bunch of little super-flexible, totally generic things that exist by virtue of its design. That way a grad student can get just as much out of it as a novelist, or a biographer; and all of the above can do these things in dozens of different ways according to individual taste—or even individual project demands. The above are just some ideas, you might have better ones. Maybe tracking characters via abbreviated codes in the scene title makes more sense to you—after all that is visible just about everywhere and easy to search for.

Great, I thank you for the feedback AmberV :smiley: . I figured others might have found ways to do these things which is why I appealed to greater wisdom on the topic. I do enjoy Scrivener’s massive flexibility which, I understand, by nature requires a bit of a generic interface; however, based on the “Windows Feedback” title I thought a new user’s input on topics like those might be appreciated. And my idea/wish for a “characters” tracker is in no way due to having used or seen it on another program; Scrivener is my first, apart from awful Word. Thanks again.

I use Project Notes for a continuous list of everything still to do that comes to my mind while writing. Since version 2.0 you can have several different project notes and name them, so I always have one that’s named “To Do”.


  1. “There can be only one!” Like for every kind of task management, it’s best if there is only ONE place where tasks can go. To scatter ToDos in a hundred scene to do notes fields would be a sure way to forget a lot of them.
  2. Project notes can always be on screen without problems, and if not, they’re only one click away.

Things I have done I STRIKE OUT. (There’s a short cut for this formatting option, BTW.) Striking tasks out is, IMHO, even more satisfying than setting a check mark.

Mike, I use keywords for character tracking in a slightly different way. In this post I give a couple of examples:

If you use keywords, then in the search box (top right of the window), next to the magnifying glass, you can use the drop-down to restrict your search to keywords, and then enter your keyword in the search box. Scrivener returns a list of all scenes tagged with that keyword.

You can also initiate a keyword search from the Project/Show Project Keywords window. Just select the character name in the list, and hit the search button. It does all of the set-up for you. This is what I was referring to above but forgot to point it out specifically. The way it should work, if you select the character keyword, then Ctrl-click on a plot keyword to combo select them and hit search, it should do an AND based search, where only scenes with both keywords are match. Current it does an OR search, which means only scenes containing at least one of the selected keywords will be returned.

Thanks AndreasE and morvenwestfield for the exellent ideas! I’m thinking now that I am quite comfortable with the program from an interface perspective, I could pick up a lot more about Scrivener’s features and how to make them work for me by going back through the tutorials.

Sounds like using keywords is the best way for me to track characters (and locations, etc.). Much obliged.

With repsect to a single-file to-do list, as my story evolves and text and whole scenes are moved around, I suspect I will have a tendency to fret over connecting unresolved items with ambiguous document location references. Thus for my organization abilities I prefer to-dos kept with the individual document they pertain to; however, the idea has potential when combined with AmberV’s file hierarchy suggestion (keeping sub-files containing to-do items, where needed).

I cannot stress enough that my ideas did not spawn from gripes or perceived shortcomings in the program. I just thought, based on the “Windows Feedback” title, that hearing thoughts from users would provide insight for the developers; used or ignored. I am fully satisfied with the beta (even before 29 release earlier today :smiley: ) and would pay full price for it.

Thanks again for being so friendly and helpful.


Is this currently possible in the Windows version? I have tried every way I can think of, but only get one project notes panel…

Currently in geek heaven (otherwise known as procrastinator’s paradise) figuring out all the amazing ways that Scrivener works, and that I can make it work for me. :slight_smile:

No, currently the Windows version only has a single Project Notes pane. Multiple panes will come eventually, probably in the Windows 2.0 version. But remember even with the single pane, you can still use rich text, so if you need separate lists you can create bold titles for each, for instance, which will make them easy to distinguish when you’re scrolling through a bit list. You could also just create a To-Do list document in the binder–even with subdocuments to group different types of to-dos if you wanted. You can’t open that in the inspector (which means it won’t be as useful for when you’re in full screen mode), but you could pull it up in a split editor while working on a document in the second split.

You guys are just incredible. Not only the software, but the PEOPLE. I am amazed at how much time you all take, ALWAYS, to thoughtfully reply to every request. Thank you so much. I’m currently just trawling the boards to read these discussions, and see what else I can learn. THAT’s how devoted I am to my work. :wink: