Creating character charts on Corkulous

Yesterday I went on and on about how much I love the Corkulous app, and I promised to talk today about how I use it for my novel-writing. Again, I would like to stress that owning this app (that works on iPad or IPhone only, and the pro edition costs 99 cents a month or $7.99 for the year, at least as I write this blog) is not essential—you can use pen and paper or real cork boards and post-it notes to do what I’m doing just as well, and possibly better. But if you like indulging in cool apps, Corkulous is fun.

I’ve taken a screen shot of the blank version of the character cork board similar to the one I am creating for my novel, which has one protagonist, one love interest, two best friends, and two half antagonists/half allies, and all of them deserve extra development on my part so I can bring them to life in the novel.


You can see that I can add a photo, usually a screen shot of a stock photo or minor celebrity who looks the part of my imagined character (in this example, I just used a photo of my puppy dog Cisco). Then I can brainstorm different elements that might boost my descriptions of the characters as well as my understanding of how each one constructs their sense of identity. I find it helpful to associate senses with the character. For my puppy dog, let’s see, that might be the sight of the leash (always gets his attention), the sound of my husband’s whistle, which he can’t resist (he ignores my attempts to whistle for him, the stinker) (I mean the dog, not my husband, fyi), the smell of salmon and eggs, etc.

As for the other categories, the object prompt is one I did for a writing workshop where we wrote about an object that was somehow significant to a character or the story, and it was a powerful exercise, so that’s been helpful to me. It helps me build character and story at the same time.

As for the various favorites, I am working on a SF novel set at least a hundred years in the future (which I agree is very optimistic of me), but I actually assign to each character favorite songs, movies, and books from my lifetime—I won’t necessarily name any of them since one imagines that people will have moved on by then… though I’ve noticed that some of the shows I associate with the past are booming right now (Seinfeld, Friends, etc.). I just use those categories to help me think about what this character would connect with, to get a feel for types.

I have the advantage, being overly indulgent in owning various tech toys, that I can use a keyboard with my iPad, so I can type a bit more on the board than I would if I were entering it directly on an iPad or iPhone screen, but if you don’t have a keyboard, I would recommend just jotting a word or two at most, because this board is really meant as a pre-writing tool to trigger lengthier writing on the novel in whatever medium you use (notebook, word processor, etc).

I will also note that I keep changing how I create character notes for my fiction. I’ve used several templates that I’ve found from different sources, some more helpful than others. Sometimes less is better for these notes, serving as prompts for writing in the novel drafts but rather than generating a lot of writing for hours that I then completely forget when I’m actually writing parts of the novel (or that may just be me?).

Okay, enough about Corkulous and character charts. I will say that knowing I planned to write about this topic for the blog prompted me to move forward on this work on my novel, which was awesome, and now I’m filled with ambitions to use my blog as a tool or a kind of accountability partner to accomplish various tasks on my to-do list (I have, for example, multiple articles backlogged to read and reflect on for various reasons). So that makes me happy.

Hope your week is off to a good start. If you have the chance, let me know if you have any tools or strategies for character planning or cork board systems that you like.

Why I love Corkulous

I have decided to indulge myself by blogging sometimes about technology. I would like to start by saying that buying apps or technological gizmos is not the same as getting work done, nor does it mean you will even use those apps the way you imagined. Paper and pen are almost always the wisest choice.

So start with the assumption that this is an indulgence, not a necessity.

As a writer (and at times, a planner, project coordinator, and problem-solver), I have a special interest in apps that help with the writing or planning process. I also love apps that are pleasing in some visual or aesthetic way, perhaps because those aren’t my strong suits (I’m a word girl), so I appreciate what others can create.

I should also admit that I am an Apple product user, a slippery slope development that began with the purchase of the iPad 2 many years ago. I loved the iPad, but quickly learned it was even more useful if I owned other Apple products. I am now a total convert, but I realize that doesn’t mean you have to be.

I have a feeling I could write a very long post on Corkulous, but my new goal is to be brief in my blog posts (I’ve earned a C grade on that so far), so I think I will speak more generally today and then share an example of how I am using it on my novel later.

I bought Corkulous back when I got my first iPad. I loved it. I had almost full control to add a range of objects anywhere on the  corkboard. At the time, this app only worked on the iPad, and it could only be transferred as a PDF image (more or less), but that was okay. It was a planning/thinking tool, not a way to create a final product.

As happens in the world of apps, a few years later it vanished from existence, a discontinued, unsupported app, which is a risk we all take (and one reason it can be wise, especially if you do not enjoy indulging in app purchases, to build systems that rely first and foremost on apps with good odds for long life, which in the world of Apple, happens to be the apps they provide in increasing abundance with their operating systems).

Since then, I found a few corkboard-ish apps that were okay, but nothing brought joy to me like Corkulous.

Apparently someone else felt that way, bought the license, and re-released the app a few years ago. Here’s the website:

The new version offers the choice to pay once for the standard, or to pay a modest annual subscription for the pro, which is what I chose because I like all the extras and thought it might help lengthen the life of this app if I did so, though I am going in knowing that there are no guarantees of long-app-life, alas. I totally get those of you who resent subscription fees, but as an “old” who remembers life before “apps” when all we had were a few “Software Applications” that cost tons and were super crappy, I have a higher tolerance for some costs. (I have zero tolerance for the Adobe subscription fees, fwiw). Since this app can produce pdfs for me to store indefinitely for my reference (among other options now), I will use it as long as I can.

I’ve taken a screen shot of a sample of this app for you to get a glimpse of how it works. Later this week, I’ll share how I am using Corkulous to develop reference material for my characters in my latest novel.