Introducing CharacTour, a Matchmaking Site for Books, TV, and Film!
If you’re familiar with MuggleNet’s book review blog, you will know that we often recommend literature outside of the Harry Potter series. Reading frequently and critically is a great way to expand the mind, nurture the imagination, or escape the humdrum of everyday life. The act of reading a book for the first time can even be a bit like falling in love, and it is with this in mind that we are proud to introduce CharacTour, an online matchmaking website pairing you, the user, with fictional characters.
CharacTour, launched earlier this week, is the passion project of Chicago-based CEO Kim Foerster and editor-in-chief Pete McEntegart. After nearly two years in development, including a six-month beta test period, CharacTour hits the Internet boasting some 4,500 character profiles, which users can interact with in a myriad of ways. We recently spoke with CharacTour’s founders on the subject of its creation.
Co-founders Foerster and McEntegart believe CharacTour to be an exciting new way to find media, books, and literature. Rather than browsing works by title or genre, as has become standard, CharacTour evaluates the characters themselves. “When you ask people what they like in a story, it comes down to the characters,” says Foerster. “How many times have you picked up a book and said, ‘I can’t finish this – because I have nothing in common with the character and don’t want to finish'[?] People tend to like characters they have something in common with, and we hope that CharacTour puts them in touch with characters that they’d like to get to know better because they have a connection to them. Plus,” she adds, “we think it’s fun.”
The similarity between CharacTour’s core functionality and that of an online dating web site are not unintentional. In fact, it was through a dating site that Kim Foerster had the idea. While working in publishing, Foerster saw how many books entered the marketplace and yearned for a more adequate way for people to select which ones to read. It was through aiding a friend in setting up their online dating profile that she wondered if you could treat fictional characters the same way. As it turns out, you can.
In order to accomplish its goal of making characters from literature “match-able” to users, CharacTour needed to build a database of characters. First, each of the characters on CharacTour was assessed using a 5-point spectrum with 26 pairs of personality traits, such as mature or immature, fair or unfair, honest or dishonest, tidy or messy, etc. with evidence from their collected works. Next, insight provided by critics in published works about those characters, where applicable, was factored in.
The process is ever-evolving, too, explains Foerster. “We are trying currently to take analyzing to the next level.” CharacTour will, in the future, scan a character’s dialogue and analyze the choice of words they use to further influence their profile. “There are certain words that we use to assess happiness, for instance,” Foerster says, “and seeing how many times those happy words are used would influence a character’s rank for that trait.”
While a project as ambitious as compiling that much data is impressive, that is only the first step of the process. CharacTour excels at making all of its data completely searchable.
By assessing themselves using the same 52-trait analysis on CharacTour’s website, users can (within minutes) develop their own profiles and begin finding characters right away that are either most alike or most unlike themselves. Those results can be narrowed by an impressive variety of categories, including finding characters from specific series, certain genders, certain time periods, or even geographic locations. This trait assessment is merely one method of finding the next book or film you would like.
CharacTour offers the exciting ability to combine characters you are already familiar with, resulting in characters who are hybrids of the dual personalities. Users also have the availability to select – by trait – which qualities they value most in a character and to have those combinations matched. Each character also has a rating scale, which users can utilize as a further guide. The site’s functionality is competent, and the process of creating, matching, or being matched is quite enjoyable in all its variety.
In addition to the impressive number of profiles searchable, CharacTour also contains a database of quotations. And a further section, titled “Weigh In,” features frequent polls for users to interact with. Creating an account on CharacTour is simple, and doing so allows you to compile a reading list (or watch-list) of your recommendations. With easy links to find those works on the Internet, be it through Amazon, Netflix, or iTunes, CharacTour is poised to be an essential tool for finding new media on the Internet today.
All sections of CharacTour’s website – quotes, polls, matchmaking tools, and character profiles – encourage feedback. “We really want the site to be a two-way street,” McEntegart says. “We know that we don’t have all of the answers and that we can much better cover the wide world of entertainment by drawing on the collective knowledge, opinions and enthusiasm of users.”
We at MuggleNet would encourage you, Dear Reader, to try out CharacTour the next time you find yourself seeking entertainment. This writer was quite pleased to find a connection with his favorite Potter character, Sirius Black, as well as many characters not yet known.