World Building and Character Building Tools?


So, for the longest time, I have been using Scrivener for almost everything, and as much as I love the software, There are still features that are missing from it’s criteria that make it the best overall novel writing software. There are two key features that keep me from completely using Scrivener for all my writing needs. Those two features are as followed: Character Development Tools, and World Building Tools.

As a Fantasy Writer, I feel that it would be necessary to have these tools implemented into Scrivener and would be a great time saver for many other writers as well. Yes, Scrivener does give you the option to develop your own tree structures, but to me, it feels like it’s a tad bit out of date, and would like something to increase my productivity within Scrivener, rather than having to rely on something like Campfire, or World Anvil for my World Building and Character Development needs. Hell, I don’t really care if you make completely new programs (I know it’s unrealistic, but would be highly appreciate (Yes, I would buy them in a heartbeat)) that can fill this void.

Character Development Tool Features

  • Character Profile in the style of a “social media” programs with the following tabs: Basic Stats, Relationships, Sexuality, Skills, Personality & Character.

  • Ability to add photo for said profile.

  • Basic Stats Tab Features: Name, Sex, Age, Race, Height, Body Type, Hair Color, Eye Color, Complexion,

  • Relationship Tab Features: Family (subtab): Brothers, sisters, mother, father (Possibly giving us the ability to link between these other character profiles as well), Friends (subtab): Best Friends, Friends, Associates, etc

  • Sexuality Tab Features: Sexual Orientation, Sexual Experience, Romantic Experience

  • Skills Tab Features: Skills List (Possible have another section in the World Building where we can link certain skills for further explanation), Occupation and Schools, Hobbies, etc.

  • Personality and Character Features Tab: Maybe some check Boxes, or pop us menus to help us build our characters faster? Introverted or extroverted? Right or Left Brained, Political Standing, Strengths, Weaknesses, Goals/Dreams/Aspirations, Fears, Insecurities, What Would They Die For?, etc.

World Building Tool Features

  • Worlds: The Ability to design worlds
  • Maps: It would be super useful to be able to upload an image of a map that we designed and then place “pin-points” on the image, and then link those to location articles that we previously wrote.
  • Religion Development Tools: Spirituality is a huge part of culture and in fantasy, if would be nice to have this, but not necessary.
  • Magic Development System: A simple, fill-in-the-blank styled to help us organize spells, hard and soft magic skills, etc.
  • Cities, and City State profiles
  • Fake Language Development Tools
  • Family Tree Development
  • Race and Species

Other Features That Would Be Nice

  • Notes Tab: For taking notes that won’t appear in the profiles, or “articles”.
  • Better Outlining, or “Story-board” feature.
  • The ability to assign characters, locations, and items to specific “scenes”.

In Conclusion

I know that it’s a little too much to ask for, but I’m sure than along side with me, and many others, this would greatly increase the value of this program. Sure, it might make the price go up a little bit, but if it means that we’re receiving more in-depth tools to make use faster, more organized writers, then I say that is perfectly justifiable, or if the devs want to develop these tools, then ask them if they could implement some way to create our own plugins with a “Scrivener” scripting language, or just plain-old Python or Java, so we can create these plugins to make our writing experiences better and more efficient.

I’m aware that this is a long post, and I really appreciate you reading this far. What do you all think about these features? Are they a little too much to ask for? I’m not saying that they should be implemented immediately in the next update, but over the course of updates here and there. In conclusion, I really love this program. It’s gotten me to write so many of my novels, and I would love to see it grow into a even better writing suite!

  • R. R. Solomon, Writer, and Editor of Unwoke Literature

You can create a “character sheet” or other template with whatever data fields you like.

You can already take notes in a variety of ways, including document-specific notes. You can already use keywords to assign characters to scenes. And many people already use the Corkboard view for storyboarding.

But as far as specifics like a religion or magic development tool, we see our role as providing generic tools that can be used across genres, not genre-specific templates. I can’t speak for Keith, but I suspect features like these are out of scope for the same reason that built-in bibliography or indexing tools are: quite a lot of work to duplicate something that other programs already do well, for a relatively small segment of our audience,


Not sure if this is of any help but there is a nice template/project that contains pretty much what you discuss in your original post.

I use it and chop/change to fit with my fantasy writing (which is best described as ‘fantasy procrastination’ :open_mouth: ).

You may find it useful ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Wow. Do you mind sharing this template? I love this!


I can’t seem to find the original now and the links seem to be no longer valid even though only a few months old although still works.

What I suggest is, click on the image and you can see which folders you can add to, say, a brand new template of your own.

Then, perhaps, using the search engine of choice, look for worldbuilding worksheets or templates.

I’m pretty sure that’s similar to what I did in the first place ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I downloaded this template back in 2018, so it’s been around for a while!

Lucky for you, I’m a well-organized pack rat. :smiley:


I can see why these would be useful, but as others are suggesting templates may be the way to go to get around the feature specificities you find are missing. I ended up creating my own templates for a variety of “objects” used in novels (settings, characters, creatures, maps, alien cultures, etc.). In the beginning I have a scrap pile for each of these items but once the draft is complete I detail them with templates, revising both the drafts and object characteristics with each pass. More to document the novel, not to plan it (although I use the hybrids of the 6 and 8 sequence structures out there).

I like your organizational thinking though. Pretty cool.

Coming over from StoryMill I too would like these features.
The Character map in Scrivener does not dynamically tie in to the mentions of the characters in the story for one. Nor is there a location map which is dynamically linked to the manuscript itself, or a dynamic timeline.

Suspense writer here.

StoryMill has unfortunately gone the way of the dogs, is only available for Mac, and has atrocious import / export / compile features. Which is why I bought Scrivener a few years back.

However my frustration level is high, and it would be awesome if future editions had this, or if some kind soul wrote an extension (for purchase of course).

With these three elements Scrivener would truly be awesome for those of us with a massive cast of characters & locations as well. I’d say doubly so if world building is involved.

One possible idea OP; Scrivener has a large set of meta-fields. Those are what I’m eying myself, before throwing in the towel and firing up the old MAC again. It does look like massive work to embed them in every scene, but it is something at least.

The rest of you; pretty please write extensions. I guarantee you there’s a market.

EDIT / ADD: After some sleuthing, it looks like what both you and I are after is screenwriting software OP. Those will do all that you ask. Google is your friend.

I’m about to spring for one; so recommendations on software that will interface with Scrivener would be very much appreciated.

Considering Fade-in, Movie Magic & Final Draft right now. If any of those interface with Scrivener I’d love to learn about it.

Or better yet–if plugins for Scrivener already exist which accomplishes the above.

Update 2: After a true deep dive into solutions to complement Scrivener.
My situation; a town ecosystem w-100+ characters, and several books tying into the ecosystem. No world building, but there is a fictional town w-all its attributes.

So: Here’s the verdict.
Final Draft should work for you; it has plenty tools for plotting, character development etc. Its writing editor for books is lousy–which is where you would stay w-scrivener.

Better, Plottr does all but the world building; AND comes with an export directly to scrivener. One place where it shines is it has a series view–which would work for building a world as well I would think.

Then there’s Novel Factory. I’m still plucking around in the videos, so I have not seen yet where it interfaces with Scrivener. It is like plottr, but I think without the series view.

The two others I am looking at, are Persona and Countour from Mariner Software. Persona handles dynamic character creation, and Contour does plotting. Neither of these have a scrivener interface.

I’m looking at plotting, characters, locations etc. in one or more external apps, which will keep the dynamic data; and to do a plain text or XML export into Scrivener, which will thus populate the location area and character map and keep it static there.

Anyway, there appears to be solutions for people like us, and to where we can keep using scrivener as well.

Scrivener does have some really great core features. One of the things I like, is that your structure is not forced into a box, you can work any way that you like.

And as for the competition; the price is not comparable. When I got mine, scrivener was $40 or so for both (Mac / Windows) licenses. The competition starts at $100 and goes up from there.

I’ll shut up now; --hopefully what I found helps you OP, or someone coming across this thread.

For what it is worth I’ll throw the suggestion of yWriter in here. It’s free software and can be a bit janky but the writer is a genre writer himself and has built the software for his needs and is sharing with others.

I’ve used it in the past and found it very useful for genre writing. These days I write a lot for my job as well and need to write technical, commercial, and legal documents regularly which is why I moved over to using Scrivener exclusively.

Having said that maybe it might be worthwhile having a section of the forums or user profiles where people could share templates with other users. I know there will likely be a host of issues with this suggestion, server space, moderation, compatibility checks etc, but just throwing it out there as something that might be useful.

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I’ll take a peek at it, thank you.
For OP, as I’ve spent another few hours digging through the internet now, Word Anvil has got to be what he is after. It even has a free version.

For me, Word Anvil is waaaaaaay over the top, but then I don’t do fantasy, just plain ol’ planet earth.

Because of the software I came to scrivener from; I’m leaning heavily towards coughing up the cash for Final Draft actually. It isn’t for novel writers, but screenwriters; but oh boy the planning features on that bad boy.

I would imagine that someone writing an epic fantasy series would have even more robust requirements than my wish list. So we are most likely faced with having to pay quite a bit–or break out Visual Studio and get busy. :smile:

Templates: The old forum had them, I’m sure of it. They’re gone? That’s too bad. I agree, they are a time saver.

Like a bad rash that doesn’t go away… that’s me.
Primarily for folks stumbling across the forum here, and with the same questions:

Upgrade to Scrivener 3.1. If you bought yours after Nov 2017, your upgrade will be free. If not–it’ll cost what I paid, a week’s worth of the tiny size of Starbucks Lattes. So, make your own coffee for a week and you got 3.1.

Why? How does this even begin to solve the problem?

Well–after digging around; something I should have been doing before writing a book in this forum! I learned the following.

Scrivener 3 has a whole host of extra meta fields. Why is this useful? You can use them to categorize your template, so that if you want custom fields to for example denote POV, the age of your MC’s siblings, or the date and time of your current scene / chapter, you can do that.

It gets better.
It turns out a whole lot of developers have clutched Scrivener to their chest a s well, and they are writing .NET frameworks, Perl Scripts & so forth, and are in the process of putting together a user dev network; much like the communities you find for video games.

Given that we’re talking about XML and RTF here, (Scrivener is written in C++ though I believe), there really isn’t anything to stand in their way (or yours and mine if we’re game) to create plugins, scripts, API’s and the like.

So where a fantasy writer might be well advised to complement Scrivener with World Anvil; for the rest of us we can just stick w-good ol scrivener.

Here’s some links telling the exciting news of what the community devs are up to.

And NOW I will shut up. :wink:

I’m deeply honored that you would find value in my old comment. :slight_smile: My note on “API or Hooks” was written in August of 2015. Now almost 6 years later, here’s an update.

I haven’t used Scrivener nearly as much as many of you, only for documentation of my own software, though I have a closet passion/wish to write stories one of these days. While not an active user right now, it is one of the tools I install on a new system when an old one dies. I have great appreciation for the depth of this software and for the passionate user base. I did not pursue API development of this fine software for two reasons.

First, without some official acknowledgement from L&L, the platform was too subject to change under an API, breaking any application written over it. That would put me into an unfortunately position to make apologies and commitments for ASAP updates. That’s not a good model. It would be better for API developers to have an ongoing partnership with “core” authors like L&L, to ensure API updates would be ready with the release of each new Scrivener version. I documented my concerns about these topics in my 2015 post, nothing happened, so … nothing happened.

Second, I noted in my other post the need for some sort of equity and motivation, and I specifically said " Insist on everything being free and the initiative is likely to flounder, but motivate people who do something good for you and the ball keeps rolling." Unless we can get community buy-in that addons for Scrivener have “value”, developers will not invest their time - and those who do a one-off project will not maintain their creations in perpetuity. I explained the situation, nothing happened, so … nothing happened.

If we can establish a collaborative relationship with L&L, just to share info about file details and schedules, it would go a long way to encourage developers to take some initiative.

If we clearly define the scenario where consumers of valued addons express their appreciation of “value” with an exchange of something else of value - cash, coffee, book reviews, whatevah, then we can sponsor the development of an API, and from there we will certainly see both free and for-fee addons.

Anyone who is familiar with other platforms that support plugins/addons will understand these concerns - keep your developers alive to write more code for you - it’s Darwinism at its finest. With no potential ecosystem of demand, there can be no ecosystem of supply. Other Wish List discussions about a possible API go back over 20 years. We still don’t have it for the reasons described here.

I would be overjoyed to work with someone at L&L on this, to cultivate a new ecosystem with an API and developers who strive to satisfy the desires expressed here over the years - and to do so with minimal impact on L&L resources. Unless and until we can take that first step, I would not do this on my own, and obviously no one else will either.

Kind regards, and thanks for your attention.

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Oh I get you Captain Starbuck.
What I didn’t say in my comment, because I felt it irrelevant, is that I’m a badly patched rubber-band and duct tape dev; so the worst kind :wink:, like a homeowner who elects to renovate their home, when they needed a general contractor and full permits.

That said, before health issues took me away from it, I spent decades working with large corporate databases.

I completely get why you don’t want to do this, or anything else that is not a commercial venture, letting you eat and pay bills. Not saying you’re not charitable, I’m saying the day has 24 hours, and if you hop into philanthropy instead of doing what keeps a roof over your family’s head–or worse, neglect your family; you will not only burn yourself out, you will damage your life and your family.

Also 100% that it is far preferable to have the software maker who you want to create an API for onboard, and with active ongoing help. Hands down.

It doesn’t make the idea in general a no-go though. Not even close. I disagree.

I’m a member of a gaming community, where the game is heavily modded, and the franchise is downright hostile to the gamers in every way possible. And this goes double for the modders.

It has an API. Actually, it has several. And more mods than you can shake a stick at. A burgeoning group of modders is making their full-time income from it, from Patreon. The franchise does everything it can to break the mods / API’s at every update, but it doesn’t even slow them down. Aside from the group who eats and pays bills from it, tens of thousands more do it for free.

And the game has been around for 20 years.

Why? They are fanatic about that game. They are passionate about it and each other, and they work together.

Larger projects clearly are on Github, as crowdsourced projects. Others are on a large flock of websites that have sprung up so they can cooperate.

Literature and Latte has exactly that kind of community.
And Literature and Latte the company, is NOTHING like that game franchise. They have every good quality a software maker can have, and none of the bad.

And here’s another reason I disagree with you. Huge Fortune 100 conglomerates routinely get the cold shoulder from software vendors. The smaller ones, w-less pull and insignificant pocketbooks, have greater trouble yet.

And the vendors update the software, and often. I cannot and will not use names obviously, but I will give you one keyword to serve as a good example of the situation which compares to this one. E-commerce and plugin makers.

Corporations obviously have IT staff and budgets to create tools with, so not an equivalent situation.

My point is; by and large communities create plugins on their own. Therefore it can be done.

I am in no way stating that you should do it, or have to be involved with it in any form. Only people who have that passion and will gladly work at it for fun should do that. And of their own free will.

You’d be surprised how many do this.

Not in this community, yet–but all over cyberspace.

So I say not only is the glass half-full, it is FULL.

Pretty sure we have a lot of Devs in this forum.

Yours truly is excluded, you want people who are professionals, not people who will make others stab themselves in the eye with a pencil when they receive the code back from the pull request.

Anyway, thank you so much for answering me. It is really cool that you popped back on, after six years even, to do that. Not many people would.

So, TL:DR: I still think it will happen. You have not dimmed my enthusiasm one bit.

And to the rest of you, grab the pitchforks!

Oh wait, that wasn’t quite right. Grab the toast! Eggs? Bananas?

PS: Visual Studio is FREE.

Sorry for a long and rather disjointed response. I was riffing on it over a period of time.

@BadScribbler - You’ve hit all of the nails square on their little heads. It’s possible that we’ve hung out in similar circles. I’ve dabbled with WoW addons. I’ve done a lot of work with Minecraft plugins. I spend a lot of time in the world of WordPress plugins. I’ve written extensions for Slack, Facebook, Skype, Twilio, Twitter, MS Office apps, and many more. Each of these ecosystems, and so many more, have eager development communities, and energized consumers of the extensions. You can’t use VS Code effectively without extensions! Few companies these days open with a new offering without mention of a REST API. My mantra is that if it has a plug, I can code into it - and if it doesn’t have a plug, I can probably create it. I just love to wireup stuff, especially when people say it can’t be done.

As you’ve noted, some companies are downright hostile to integration. I don’t believe L&L is or would be such a company. Consider Twitter has surprisingly been developer-adverse for most of its existence, and even Google (king of the APIs) often publishes crap specs for defective interfaces that they never fix. And you’d think an ecosystem like LinkedIn (now owned by Microsoft) would be eager to embrace addons, but the interfaces are poor and the community has no inclination toward related integrations.

The Scrivener community is passionate about the Scrivener product and the developer/provider. But as with many products, I don’t think this community is in-tune with the kinds of extensions that we understand in other environments. At the risk of over-stereotyping, I suspect this community is more oriented toward (duh) literature than toward technical things like extensions and addons. So the audience is more inclined to simply ask the vendor for product changes than they are to discuss and encourage a third-party ecosystem of addon functionality. An audience needs to be primed to think about the package, not just in terms of what the vendor offers but in terms of what’s possible with third-party addons. That’s a cultural norm that hasn’t been established here yet. Compare to WordPress where most people don’t even think about many features being built into the core - they expect the plugin market to be rich with diverse offerings to suit any preference or application.

Many addons for many tools are free (as in beer), and many are also open source (free as in liberty). With a platform like WordPress it’s understandable that there are costs for specialty functionality - we expect in business that there are expenses incurred toward profitability. Even with games, where these days people pay for subscriptions, it’s understood with the Freemium model that some bonus features are free while there is a cost for some Premium features. With Scrivener, we buy the software once and get free support for the current major release. It’s a one-time purchase, one time expense. The notion of addons for this software is foreign, as is the notion of possibly paying others for some new features. For many (most?) I think Scrivener is a tool to help people to create art with almost no budget. The thought of paying more for this hobby is not appealing. Even when writing for-profit books, I think these days such business is much less lucrative than it used to be, and writers aren’t used to many “expenses” (except for lots of coffee I guess). Again, I don’t think this audience would be onboard with the idea of spending more money even toward making a better finished product.

In other communities where there are free addons for some product, a lot of people tend to request/insist that the upstream vendor should adopt and support the code and functionality. Understandably, these folks are sometimes less trusting of third-parties, and not so understanding of the value of a third-party development industry. And of course if you’re getting free support from your current provider, it’s natural to resist third-party offerings that may present additional costs. But in many cases this is another example of the lack of cultural recognition of third-party developers. For example, there are many free extensions for Facebook, but few people use them or even know about them. The common Facebook user isn’t inclined to think in terms of plugins. Similarly, while plugins for Chrome and Firefox are hugely popular amongst those who are inclined to install such things, I think most browser users haven’t a clue about what an extension is or how to install/use one.

All of this is to say that some users and user types have expectations of their tools and others do not. I don’t see the Scrivener audience (yet) as one that is inclined to request or use third-party offerings, free or for-fee. I think all of these factors contribute to the difficulty of getting enough support from users and fans, to encourage developers to pursue this in earnest.

And here we are 11 days since your last note and we still have not heard from L&L on this topic. That’s, um, not encouraging.

I’m not making any firm points, just expressing a number of random thoughts about why I think we have never seen traction for a Scrivener addon ecosystem. I’d be really eager to help kick one off, with interfaces to Scrivener and free and for-fee addons built over those interfaces to improve on the user experience. Such an effort does not begin with code, but with development of a culture of awareness and expectations. We need to convey messages to Scrivener users, and use surveys to ensure some critical mass of people is onboard. We need L&L to facilitate this, or it simply won’t move beyond this thread - perhaps for yet another six years.

( HEY! L&L! Message me! :call_me_hand: :speech_balloon: :eyes: :nerd_face: )

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Many people in the community over the years have asked for precisely this ecosystem. Ultimately, it’s up to KB and L&L to decide if that’s how they want to spend development and support effort on Scrivener. So far, that answer appears to be “no.”

I don’t believe it is because of a lack of technical acumen on either KB’s part or the broader Scrivener community.

If you are making a specific proposal and would like an “official” response, you can open a support ticket here:

Beyond that, we do not comment on future product plans.

I think this is an astoundingly limited view of writers in general and Scrivener’s users in particular. While it’s true that we welcome “starving authors,” and that keeping the cost of Scrivener low is a deliberate choice with those users in mind, we also have users who are at the very top of their respective fields and could easily afford any tool they chose. And we have many users who produce written material as part of their professions, but would not necessarily call themselves “writers.” Lawyers, technology professionals, and so on are accustomed to paying many times Scrivener’s price for journal subscriptions, research databases, and the like.

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A bit late to the party, I know, but I’m posting for anyone looking at screenwriting software as an adjunct to Scrivener. IMHO (Pro screenwriter), Final Draft is the best screenwriting app on the market. However, the best bang-for-the-buck is WriterSolo. WS is the free, no-cloud version of WriterDuet. It does about 80% of what FD does, and is very solid. You can also cut and paste script formatted pages into Scrivener using PasteText As Screenplay,just like with Final Draft.

As a screenwriter, I often am doing world-building. I’ve found the gaming apps to be clunky and limted. I’d encourage you to look at Scrivener’s Wiki Link functions, for creating two-way links to documents in your project. I’ve found this is very useful for compiling intricate, Game Of Thrones-scaled worlds, characters and histories into your own wikipedia-like document.

If you want the hyperlinking experience to be a bit slicker, I’d recommend looking into a Zettelkaster app like Hypernotes, or Obsidian. I like Hypernotes best, but it’s cloud app. Obsidian is local, but is modal, so you keep bouncing back and forth between editing and viewing modes.

Hope that helps.

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