Persona (50% off now): an app to create characters

Hello everyone, I’m new here. I love writing and story very much and I’ll be a student studying creative writing this fall.

Since I’m not an English native speaker so that my English might be strange. Sorry for that

I’ve read a review on AppStorm about Persona from Mariner Software ($50, 50% off now at $25), which helps you to develop characters and to organize them.

This is the article on AppStorm: … -in-depth/

The ‘Character Sketch’ in Scrivener is just a minor function; it’s more likely to be a sort of reference which you create it for yourself when you are writing a novel. But sometimes I want to just develop a character, imagine his or her whole life, create a profile of his or hers, and then maybe I would put the character into a story, or maybe compose a story for this character, or just let him/her be there and wait for inspirations for future stories.

But I have to say, though Persona can achieve what has been mentioned above, it’s truly weak and limited in function. It provides 32 build-in Archetypes (such as man in charge, lady in red, opportunist, etc), but there is no clear indication of the identity of the author, who defined the Archetypes, wrote the info about them, and even set the relationship between them. So why must I trust these information without a reliable source? Clearly it is more trustable when the information is authorised, and I, as the consumer, would be able to use it without doubting if it is correct or not.

Furthermore, the worst thing is that it doesn’t have an export option. When I get this app, the first thing I think is ‘Can I export the characters I create to Scrivener?’ Unfortunately, I can’t. What only I can do is to print it.

The only thing this app does well and almost best is to organize the characters you have created. You can add tags to your characters, create a group or a smart group just like the one in iTunes. So If I create a character, for example, Jon Snow (A Song of Ice and Fire) , I can either put him in a group named 'The Starks", and a group named ‘The Night’s Watch’ without duplicating his profile. Or I can just add a tag onto his profile such as ‘Stark’, then when I create a smart group which is ruled as include ‘Stark’ in tag, he’ll automatically appear in there.

Though it can do well in organize your character, for me, it’s still too expensive at the price of $50 or even $25 now. I am just recommending to you in case you need it because it’s on sale now.

However, I really want a software that can help me to develop characters. The ideal software should include these features:

  1. Focuses on creating characters;
  2. Organizes the characters just like Persona does;
  3. Draws relationship maps of these characters;
  4. Exports and works with Scrivener or other apps.

I know it is almost a daydream but…if you know a software that can does these things or some of these things, or maybe it’s not exactly made for writers but coincidentally can be used to do these things, please tell me.

Thank you very much.

I hadn’t heard of Persona, so just checked it out. There’s no special price mentioned on the App store, nor at Mariner Software’s site. The review you mentioned was written in January, so I suspect the special price has expired.

Regarding the origins of the personas themselves, at first I thought they were based on Christopher Vogler’s work (which was based on Joseph Campbell’s work which, in turn, was based on the work of Carl Jung). However, limiting the options to male and female versions of “heroes” and “villains” is almost cartoonish compared to Vogler (and Vogler, to my mind, presents a too-simple version of Campbell’s work). I had a look at Mariner’s website, but there is no information about Persona’s development there other than a blog comment to say they’re sad Carl Jung isn’t around to see it (but if it is based on Jung’s work, it’s a travesty). Very disappointing. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than I will see this thread and comment on the source of the character descriptions in Persona, but I haven’t seen anything like it written anywhere else.

Thanks for mentioning it, I enjoyed the diversion and think the idea of using an app for character development is interesting. Like you, I am concerned with the lack of explanation regarding the source of the character overviews and the lack of export options (even printing!) is an absolute deal breaker. At $50, I need a heck of lot more incentive before I would consider this app.

As I return to my novel later this year (he says hopefully), I think I’ll stick to the features of Scrivener for tracking character development.

UPDATE: If purchased directly from their site, there is a 50% discount currently available (coupon code required) for all of Mariner’s desktop software in celebration of the company’s 23rd birthday. Also, Persona is available to download for a free 30-day trial. I’m still dubious of it’s origins and utility.

If you’ve lived long enough to consider writing a novel, you’ve probably already met enough people to give you as good a start as you’ll need on character background and development.

[Crotchety old man’s personal opinion: The farther you get — into someone else’s machinery — from your own experience, the less likely that you’ll produce a credible world, credible characters, credible dialogue.]

If you genuinely want the help, I think it would be more useful — and cheaper — to read Campbell and Jung. Even better, read Homer and Shakespeare and McCarthy.


As some one who picked up Persona during a pre-order sale before it first came out, I would caution against spending your money on it. There are still several issues with the software, just from a bug perspective, and Mariner’s support has taken an unexpected turn for the worse. Some core features still don’t work and nine months later the only answer is “yeah, we know that doesn’t work. We’re looking into it.”

As for the use of the program, let me just say that it won’t help you create any believable characters. I’m not sure what “method” it’s based off of, but it it gives you sixteen classes of hero (eight for male, eight for female) and the same amount for villain. Each class is offset by it’s polar opposite, and that is supposed to help you create rich characters.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I found it to be useless, even as a database for characters I create my own way.

That’s just my two cents after using it, so take it for what it is.

*Edit - forgot that it was 32 classes instead of 16.

Heart7 -

As a side note, if you’re really interested in finding a piece of software to help you create characters, you might take a look at Character Writer by Typing Chimp. You can still buy it, but I’'m not sure how much it is supported anymore. It’s more expensive, but does give you more customization and the ability to put in your own character questions and what not.

I got it and used it a couple of years ago. It’s not perfect, but I came up with some interesting characters with it. It’s still way more mechanical than finding your own characters and molding them within your story, but it would give you a direction to start from.

Again, just my two cents… :smiley:

Very sceptical about this sort of stuff. It may be amusing for hobbyist-writers but if you’re serious it has no place at all. Like learning the piano by running piano-rolls through a pianola. If one of my students turned up with one of these applications I’d suggest they’d delete it NOW.

It seems to define characters based around their occupation / role in the story? Sounds like a recipe for clichéd heroes and two dimensional villains. Perhaps just about do-able if you’re writing the screenplay for Cliffhanger 2, but I suspect your story will be more entertaining if your character is out-of-type for the role you have planned. Why do people think they can apply a formula to writing and then not have the writing be formulaic?

Also, Bargepole teaches? This warms me.

PS, does anyone else think that the word cliché is overused?

I read pigfender’s post, but all I recall is

Please, no.

I still cringe at the memory of the opening scene of Cliffhanger where a buckle undoes, and breaks, itself in a way that defies both the laws of physics and credibility.

So, please. No.

Return of MJ.jpg

If this is the new NIAD… :cry:

Or have you moved on to SIAD (Script-In-A-Day)? :confused:

But there’s a problem with your script: it’s not nearly implausible enough. The bolt needs to deform itself, then undo, then break. Maybe after a couple of rivets spontaneously pop. Yes, rivets, except not popping. Since we know that rivets, by definition, don’t screw in, let’s watch them unscrew themselves from the fuselage; THEN we can watch the bolt, that is carrying little weight and is one of many, deform. That might almost make this as unwatchable as the first.

Looks like we have a Director!

To step aside from the Fun and Games for a moment and address the original poster’s questions - I think the closest you’ll get to what you seek, particularly the graphical requirement, is Tinderbox ( Here you will be able to build your own, very flexible, character app, more or less, although the cost will be relatively high and the learning curve will be steep.

Alternatively, you could copy one of the several ‘Character Template Sheets’ to be found on the web, into MS Word or better still MS Excel, and use that. If the template sheet is sensible and comprehensive, it will deliver much of what you want.

Of course, it’s easy to be snobby about even formulae-based frameworks such as these, and easy - once of course you’ve tucked Jung, Campbell, Shakespeare et al. into your noggin - to forget how confusing the world of literah-tuuure and its creation can be when you’re just starting out.

For me however, you don’t necessarily want to start with character, naked and unadorned. I’m of the school that believes character is ‘decision-making revealed by pressure’. In other words, plot comes first, and proceeds via an argument with character. What is Bond without his missions, or Hamlet before he meets the ghost? So you can’t really pin down all the dimensions of a character until you’ve also pinned down the twists and turns of your story. But that’s just my view.

Having said that, I did enjoy reading PJS’ post.

Another Crotchety Old Man

erm… what would the missions be without bond!?
it,s the justaposition of the character to the situation - or the fish seemingly out of water, to use a very tired expression - that makes a story interesting.
bond - the traditonal british gentleman. loves fine dining, wearing immaculate suits and the good things in life. kills people for a living.

look back to all the truly great books you,ve read and I suspect at their core is a character. an interesting character that you don,t necessarily like but who you want to spend time with. a character who, thrown into circumstances he wasn,t accustomed to, grows and changes over the course of the story.

of course casting into type didn,t hurt the careers of lee child, andy mcnab and countless others.

i shall invoke the literary equivalent of godwin,s law (which i shall humbly name floss,s law and states that as an discussion on writing gets longer the probablility that someone will mention stephen king tends to 1).
king is a big believer in writing without knowing too much of your plot. like unearthing a fossil he calls it in ,on writing,. in other words, set up characters, real characters, and put them in a position and then let them surprise you. let them help steer the plot.

in all fairness that does explain why ,it, just kind of meanders on aimlessly after king has created some seemingly indestructable monster and then can,t figure out a way to kill it.

and yes, i,m well aware that godwin,s law is actually just a commentary on how people don,t appreciate how probabilities work, and that as opportunities increase anything that is theoretically possible will have it,s probability tend to 1. including the probability of having a piece of an airplane wing fall on your head whilst watching donny darko, for example.
floss,s law is also such a commentary.

what is my point? do things in whatever order makes sense to you. if having a well rounded character helps you come up with the plot, by all means start there (look at any serial or sequel you ever read to see how well it can work. you think when francis ford coppola sat down with mario puzo to write the godfather part ii they were all like, man we are in so much trouble having these great characters already established). if you like to craft a plot and then figure out what kind of character best suits that plot - which will have the most impact - then do that.

whatever makes sense to you. as long as the finished product has characters, plot, writing, voice and all the other things, does it matter what came first?

what i would be wary of, though is the following…

  • using a formula of any description to come up with characters. interesting characters are found in the grey areas between stereotypes.
  • sticking too rigidly to your initial character. feel free to flex and change them as you see best. nothing is locked until your finished your final draft.
  • using more of a character sheet than you need. it,s asking for you to let your research show in your writing.

continuing floss,s stallone posters with exagerated forearms series…
Cliffhanger Poster Art.jpg


Posts: [size=150]100[/size]
Joined: Wed May 11, 2011 8:25 am
Platform: Windows

Happy[size=150] 100[/size] Cus A presence to be reckoned with! :wink:
Cus Fluff

Talking of grumpy old men: I wrote a long and detailed post earlier today about characters and plot and whatnot and then my bl**dy Mac froze. I even waited for an entire 10 minutes in the hope it might resurrect itself, but no; forced restart required. That’ll teach me for straying back on topic - I should have stuck with directing imaginary b-grade flicks. :unamused:

Anyway, part of what I was posting was that Tinderbox was a good, albeit expensive, recommendation. I also suggested Zengobi’s Curio as a possible alternative: Although still expensive, it’s less than half the price of Tinderbox and has a more gentle learning curve. Both may be overkill for tracking character development since neither are dedicated purely to this task (as per the OP’s request). Still, they’re great apps in and of themselves, would do the job well and play well with other apps (such as Scrivener) so fulfil most of the remaining criteria.

All right, I’d best go off topic now before my computer goes on strike again. Did anyone else find Floss’s poster of Stallone reminded them of Popeye?


so why am I told that I have to log in, if I want to reply…when I try to open this…link? :confused: Have you screwed everything up now.

And another thing, going back on topic, is known throughout the WWWCosmos, as not the done thing. Causes all manner of…stuff! happen.

Well, at least we’ve solved the mystery of how the buckle broke in the first Cliffhanger movie. You can clearly see in the poster Floss posted that Ms Joyner has some bizarre radioactive condition.

Perhaps it is the close proximity to this that causes Stallone’s are to swell up, and it is this that he is trying to show in the main picture.

thanks fluff, cus. somewhat disturbing that i squandered the milestone with a poster.

here,s to another hundred posts of scratching and biting at things in the scrivening sub-forum. hmmm why does no one post anything in there anymore.