How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#1
In my novel, there are a lot of characters aside from the protagonist and his family and friends. I mean LOTs AND LOTS...

I even named trivial characters so that it could be easy for me to write the scene, without referring to the character like that 'Blonde chic' or that 'one-eyed old fart', etc. Calling the characters in a scene became repetitive and also weird. hence I just end up naming these characters although, they don't have to play any actual role in the plot.
But sometimes when I need to reuse that same character, I tend to forget the name or misspell his name.

Yeah, I tried managing writing it down on a notepad, but later it became so hard to read, that one might mistake it for some encrypted code message.
So I end up deleting it.

So how do you properly organize such information while making it easy to refer to this information?
Not only the names of a minor character but also like places, the tavern, bookstore, magical weapons, villages, etc.
Any tips are appreciated.

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#2
At the moment, I mostly use a spreadsheet for notes. It currently has eight tabs in it, each for different types of notes (including big things like the progression of the main characters in relation to the books in the series, as well as small things like accents, or details about traveling--sailing, horse-riding, walking distances, etc.)

I use Scrivener for writing, so it makes it very easy to scan through my scenes for minor characters if I need to look them up for some reason. Rather than searching on a name that I might not remember, I can just click on the scene in which the character appeared.

In my notes spreadsheet, two of the tabs are "Characters" and "Timeline", but I added those two tabs later--I haven't yet attempted to use them while writing. I've started filling them in, but it's going to be a huge project (I've only gone through my first ten chapters so far and I've already listed 57 named characters).

The Timeline tab is even more awkward, since I've got multiple storylines crossing each other. I'm looking for something more capable than a spreadsheet. When I get time, I'm going to try out the free trial periods for Aeon Timeline and for Campfire Pro, to see if either of those would meet my needs. I've never used them before, though, so I don't know if they're any good. I'll probably use them for a different story rather than for this one--I think it'll be easier to apply new software to a story I haven't started writing yet.

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#4
I also use Scrivener, as it lets me create navigable notes for people, places, things, in addition to my chapter/part/act structure. It works pretty well for me, but to Seerica's point, I also don't name everybody that has dialog. An innkeeper is an innkeeper unless they have reason to become a character with an impact on the story. 

When their name would be used as part of their title, such as "Hello Senator Griswald", then they get an entry in the "Minor Characters" folder on my Scrivener file. Sometimes I do sub folders as well and in this example I may have one labeled "Senators". Then, I can put the descriptive for each of these senators into their own entry and next time I need to reference Griswald and I can't remember if he was the salt & pepper bearded guy, or the tall and lanky man, I can go check his file.

If I didn't have Scrivener, I think I'd use Excel like IvyVeritas mentioned, as using tabs in Excel would let me achieve much the same navigation to information as I have now.

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#5
I'm new to writing and is still searching for something that works for me. So take everything I write with a grain or two of salt. Currently, I'm using a combination of OneNote and a Grammarly document. 


The Grammarly contains all the named characters, including their name, age, appearance, summery(their current purpose in the story), a little background information, and misc. Misc could be a guard rank in the military.

The OneNote document is for organization and detailed background. It contains more detailed character backgrounds, political factions, organizations, cities, places, etc.

Tools that have hierarchical structures and are searchable are great for keeping track of your characters and world. Experiment and find what works for you.

As Seerica said, you might want to cut down on characters. You should only name a character if you want the reader to think about that character.
For example: Two random people from class joining in bullying the MC are not important for the story and should not be named. They are just there to symbolize that the class gangs up against the MC.

When I write a scene and know which characters will be there, I add them to my overview of what I want to write. If I realize I need a known character in the scene, I add them to my overview. If an unknown, maybe, important character appears, I also add them to my character document. Later if the character is important, they can be added to the OneNote document.

If you don't want to jump back and forth between documents while write, try adding placeholders as you are already doing. Make sure your placeholders are easily searchable when you revise.
For example: The [[beast]] ran full speed towards me. My heart was beating, but I wasn't scared. I had the world's best crew, to my left stood [[JimmyBouya]] and to my right [[one-eyed old fart]], when together, we were invincible.
In this example, I haven't found an awesome name for the monster and one-eyed old fart, and I don't remember how to spell JimmyBouya's name, they are all in double brackets(easy to search for). When I revise the chapter, I can search for all instances of [[ and solve the problem then.

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#7
I've been using Microsoft OneNote to keep things organised. Under a Notebook, you can have different Sections, which each have their own Pages. The setup is flexible enough to allow you to create nested categories.

Since my story is presently set in a school, I have a section dedicated to characters. In that Section, I have a page for each location in the school, and the characters are listed under those pages. I have a page for faculty members, one for dorm mates, one for classes, etc.

If you set it up right, you can actually also create hyperlinks that let you jump between pages, so clicking on someone's name might bring you to precisely that page where you've thrown down all the details about that person. If you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, I think it's the best alternative to other specialised applications like Scrivener. 

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#9
I don't use any specific program, but tend to keep my notes sorted by story arc. It's easier for me to find things if I start off with a general idea of where to look rather than trying to find the specific location of an individual file.

I try to stay at least slightly organized, but it's pretty easy for me to spend more time creating a sorting system than writing the fiction itself.

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#11
I usually just remember them largely, but you can write them down if that's a problem, or if there's a lot of details to remember. An outline helps. Some people like to use standardized forms, sheets, such as character sheets, geographical outlines, maps, the outline, of course. You can  use a day planner, if you want, Gant chart out scenes if you like. Whatever you need to keep motivated and consistent. Some people like to use 3 x 5 index cards, some storyboard the novel ahead of writing it, etc. There is no magic wand to this, and depends on what works for you.

Re: How to Manage information and details about all minor characters and things in your novel?

#12
Every time I name a character, I will add an entry to the Characters section of the Appendix at the end of my gDoc.  Along with the name, I'll include a brief description of what they look like and any important details.  Then as I'm writing I'll refer back to that entry and update it as needed.  Sometimes the entries are quite long, other times they are just a couple lines.  When the character is first named, I'll make that a link to their section in the Appendix; but I honestly use the search (Ctrl F) way more often.

I've heard that Scrivner can do this in little side sections but I can't be bothered to take on a whole new application just to write my words down.  Especially when I wouldn't be able to also share that doc w/ my alpha readers and get feedback.