Character Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

When I was a kid, I became enamored of All Things Tolkien.  I devoured Tolkien’s novels.  I inhaled the short works.  I labored through critical essays and biographies and scholarly works.  I abhorred the Harvard Lampoon’s BORED OF THE RINGS (how dare they mock my treasured classics?!?)

Along the way, I collected several different “Encyclopedias” and “Dictionaries” and “Companions”, each of which was intended to serve as a reference work to Middle Earth, describing characters and places so that the devoted reader could obsess about detailed mythology.  Or, um, maybe that was just me….

The tradition of reference works for fantasy worlds is alive and well – witness the nasty litigation between J.K. Rowling and RDR Books.  The encyclopedia in that case began life as an online entity, free to all readers.  (Arguably, Rowling would not have taken action against the encyclopedia authors if they’d left their work online and free.)

With wiki technology and other online tools, encyclopedias are a viable community resource within speculative fiction.  For example, one could build a “Vampires Through the Ages” wiki, with individual entries for every vampire ever mentioned in any book, short story, or song.  (Song?  Yeah, whatever.)

What sort of information would you want to see in a character-based wiki?   What would you find useful, if you were browsing through, in hopes of finding more characters like ones you already love?

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  1. 1. Amit Doshi

    I started a Wheel of Time podcast(thewotcast.com) and http://www.encyclopaedia-wot.org/ is an invaluable resource. Id like a reference site that has information at that level of detail and does a good job of providing exactly the kind of referrals your describing. When you read about Aes Sedai you should be pointed to things like the Bene Gesserit, The sisters of the sword, the group of female sorcerers in Brent Weeks Night Angel trilogy, the sorcerers colective by Jennifer Fallon etc. So it shouldnt have only the most popular books, and a wiki would be a great way to make sure that it has relatively unkown authors. Something like this would be a great way to find new books to read.

  2. 2. Tara Maya

    I love character dictionaries. I think each entry should include: a photo, genealogy, habits, what the character is best known for, as well as tidbits not included in the books.

  3. 3. Rubus

    I currently am rereading Woken Furies by Richard Morgan, and he has a habit of dropping names and sometime it is really hard remembering what he refer to; is it a city ha visited in the previous book, or a city on the current planet, or is a country on some other planet – or is it a planet? An index at the end of the book with short brief would really help, if it was combined with a short index to all the people mentioned in the book it would even become much better.

    I think there is too few books out there that needs printed encyclopaedia as Tolkien needs, but I think most authors should run a wiki or something similar with the same kind of information. Could it be so that a fan club could be built around it, creating an even loyal fan base? Why not let the fans invent characters and places that later could be used in one way or the other? The latter would be very hard, but it could spark some ideas for the author, at least.

  4. 4. Tom Gallier

    You know, that would be a great thing for an author to have online, a wiki-encyclopedia of all their characters and places. Of course, if you write only stand alone novels that would be too much work to do one for each novel. But it would work for an ongoing series. If I ever achieve Robert Jordan sales and fame status, I’ll seriously consider doing one. LOL

Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.

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