What, you’ve never heard of MindMeister!? That’s a tragedy, because it’s one of the best tools out there for writers. Best of all, you get three ‘mind maps’ completely FREE, and you can delete and begin new ones as many times as you like. Paid subscriptions start from USD6 per month.
Disclaimer: I’m not getting paid by MindMeister. I don’t even have a paid account. I just take advantage of their generous allowance to use their software for free. If, however, you click on the link at the end of this post and open your own MindMeister account, I will get an extra ‘free’ mind map to use, up to a possible total of 10. So there’s not a whole lot in this for me apart from getting to share with you one of my favourite tools – and one of my favourite ways to use it.
In my opinion, the best way to get started with MindMeister is to watch a couple of their YouTube videos and then to dive straight in. If you want a bit more in-depth stuff about what mind maps are and how they work, spend a bit of time in the MindMeister Academy. About the only thing you can’t do in Basic (free) which the paid plans allow is upload images. It’s up to you if you feel you need this functionality or not. Personally, I’m not too bothered. I create a character map and then attach an image later if I need one.
Below you can see one of the many free templates MindMeister offers (the Life Plan one, in the Life section of the Templates library).
I’m sure that you can see this is actually a pretty good character template to start from. A lot of the pieces you’ll need are already there. It took me about ten minutes to go from the starting template, to my own basic template as seen below.
All the images and icons are also in their free library. The only thing I might want to add? A photo to use as a ‘face claim’, but that’s easy enough to do elsewhere if you don't have a paid subscription.
Now MindMeister’s Basic (free) plan doesn’t really allow you to export the image in any kind of useful format. How did I get it here then, I hear you ask?
Screen capture. Yes. It’s really that simple. I use ScreenCapturer, a free app.
Now I’ve made my template, I’m not going to make changes on the template itself. I go back to My Maps and Duplicate it. Then I get a nice copy I can make a mess of without having changed the original.
I’m going to rename the duplicate with the name I’ve chosen for my character.
Select Properties here to be able to rename the mind map.
Now I can go in and put in some information I’ve just made up about my protagonist.
(No, you won’t see Lucy in a story of mine any time soon).
If you really want a photo in there, it’s not difficult to save the screen capture as a JPG and add one in the centre. I’m not going to do that because I don’t happen to have a conveniently copyright-free one on hand. That shouldn’t be a concern for you as long as you aren’t sharing your character map publicly, so you can go ahead and use Natalie Portman or Charlize Theron (or yourself) as your face claim if that’s what you want to do.
And that’s it! You can add as much or as little detail as you like to the mind map; I personally like to print this basic map off on a large sheet of paper and then I can add pencil notes if there’s something else I need to remember or elaborate on.
Now, if you’d like to cheat and start from the basic template I built above, I’m going to show you how to do that. Click here to download the Character_Template.mind file. Once you have your own MindMeister account, you’ll find an Import button near the top of the My Maps screen.
Import the Character_Template.mind file and there you go, your very own Character Mind Map ready to fill in for your next original character!
Please click on the following logo to go to MindMeister through my affiliate link and let me get one more free map without paying for it!
Good luck creating your next original character!