I started using Scrivener ($40) to organize my stories. It comes with a character template and a location template as part of the basic install.
Then I hunted around until I found some free templates online that I thought I would try. Unfortunately, the templates that ended with “srivtemplate” instead of “scriv” were in an older Scrivener format and I couldn’t import them to save my life.
The thing that surprised me the most about using character sketches is that creating backgrounds, personalities, habits, and physical descriptions forced me to think harder about their actions and thought processes. In other words, it makes them people, not pieces on a chess board.
This is weird, I tell stories, I don’t create organized, reasoning beings. I do, but not consciously, and certainly not in any organized manner.
However, I find the biggest help is the location template. With it, I can make a more efficient mental map, so I don’t have them do a “Dantana” and turn right at the top of Fremont Street, winding up instantly facing the opposite direction in front of the D.I.
Someone in one of the forums suggested using an actual map of a city or countryside, then tweak it to fit so I took the map of Skyrim (game) as a base for a sword and sorcery short story. The story sucked, but at least everybody showed up when and where I wanted them to.
A final note:
After reading and rereading the advice I found on the net, I’ve set myself the task of writing a knight in shining armor, pure of heart, with no bad habits. This is going to be a serious challenge, because my characters may not be evil, but they’re not exactly angels either. I mean, let’s face it, goody-two-shoes types are boring, or didn’t anyone else notice that Snidely Whiplash always had a lot more fun than Dudley Do-Right.