New Year’s App Solutions: Persona for writing the great American novel

Sections: Features, Hands On / First Looks, Mac Software, Writing / Publishing

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Resolving at the beginning of the year to write a novel twixt January 1st and December 31st is a grand tradition indeed. It’s also extremely difficult. I completed my first novel in six months because I had to finish it in order to graduate college. My second novel took eight years. My third, fourth and fifth will likely top that.

Why? Because it’s hard to stay focused. We can’t all be those young women who write young adult novels on Post-It notes with one hand while holding a breastfeeding baby in the other…for thematic, practical and biological reasons. As such, the more tools you have to keep you organized and on track, the better your chance of success (by which I mean completion, because no amount of organization will help make your novel any good). One such tool is Mariner Software’s Persona.

Mariner has numerous tools available for writers, and Persona claims its niche by focusing solely on your characters. Although apps such as their StoryMill and Montage allow you list and keep you track of your characters’ appearance, traits, etc., but Persona takes it a bit further by defining them. Characters are placed into archetypes that can help define their background. And when you’ve got that isolated, you can use that knowledge to drive your characters actions and reactions.


Why would you need such a thing? Surely you already have a handle on your characters, right? Maybe not. On my eight year novel, I had one of my main characters react to a situation in a way that my “editor” said was a slap in the face. “There’s nothing in what we know about this guy that would lead him to do that,” he explained, and he was right. I had him react that way because it drove the story along, but it didn’t work. It’s the kind of thing Persona’s descriptions would’ve laid out in front of me from the start.

Persona is also great for having your characters interact in a logical way. With each character in the book, you’re given a description of How They Clash, How They Mesh, and How They Change. You can use this for the development throughout the story.


Persona isn’t meant to control your characters, after all, but to give you the basic building blocks to stack into a sound structure. This logical development can make them more believable, meaning better connections between them and the reader.

There are numerous other OS X apps I’d recommend for those seeking to write their first (or tenth, I don’t care) novel. Mariner’s StoryMill and Contour were already part of the process, and Persona is now, as well. And the good news is that all of these apps offer free 30 day trials. Check them all out and get yourself started. Chances are good you’ll know within 30 days if this resolution will stick.

Product [Persona]

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