Jacob Silvia
Friday, July 24, 2015

As I mentioned in my previous post, WhatCharacter is meant to fill a void on the internet. Allow me to explain.

If you do a Google search for [imdb for books] you're presented with a series of Q&A posts of people asking the same thing. They want a site that provides the same level of information as IMDb. However, the usual slew of answers falls short of (at least, what I'd expect of) being "the IMDb for books."

They mention LibraryThing (a site I love and use regularly), Goodreads (a site I have an account for, but never use, as it's not as good as LibraryThing for how I use such sites), and Shelfari (I never got into this one, so I can't speak to it).

While LibraryThing comes the closest, it fails hard in one great respect: Characters. Or, really, most of what they call "Common Knowledge." The problem is, it's just text (albeit with some special rules to govern stuff in parenthesis). When entering characters, there's no way to inherently link "Anakin Skywalker" to "Darth Vader", or "Leia Organa" with "Leia Solo" (or even "Leia Skywalker", spoiler alert). Characters there are only keyed by their name on the site, so there's no way to indicate that "Count Olaf" is "Graaf Olaf" in the Netherlands. And even worse, there's no way to distinguish between "Alice (in Wonderland)" with "Alice (and Bob)".

WhatCharacter.com aims to solve this problem by providing a database-driven website with individual pages for each literary character we catalog. This is a work in progress, but will eventually include all manner of biographical information for each character, including their birth/death dates, their relationships, their appearances in different fictional works, headshots (from book covers, illustrations, and films) and even a list of actors who have portrayed them on film or on radio.

Okay. So, you might be wondering, what's the difference between this, and say, all of Wikia? Well, a few things:

  1. It's curated, so the data has a lower chance of losing integrity, and
  2. it's structured, so it's easier to provide things like an API without wrapping it around a scraper and hoping for the best.

WhatCharacter wants to provide a navigable directory of literary characters, and eventually other things that are represented in literature, such as places, events, species, and artifacts. And it wants to provide this under an easy to adopt API so it can easily be integrated with the sites I mentioned above.

If you'd like to contact me for more information, please email me at jacob@whatcharacter.com.