Character Sheets

As our Monday draws to a close, I thought I would end the day with another valuable writing tip. Today’s topic deals with one of the most important facets of your story. Your characters.

Today’s topic is: Character Sheets.

In my last post, I covered an easy way to create your timeline. The next logical step is developing your characters. At this point you might have a good idea of what they look like and who they are… but perhaps you don’t. Either way, I highly recommend writing these details down.

It only takes a few minutes per character, and by the time you are half way through writing your amazing novel, you will be thankful you took a few minutes to jot down these notes.

A character sheet is one way to clarify your own vision of the people making up your story. Only then can you confidently write about them and make them real for your readers. It doesn’t mean you have to describe every tiny detail in your story that you happen to include on your sheet. After all, you want to leave your readers room to imagine the characters and form a bond with them. You as the writer, however, should have a clear picture of each and every character as you write.

This isn’t just their physical characteristics. You will also want to know other details, such as what motivates your character, what is their home life like, what was their childhood like, and what fears do they have? If you write fantasy or sci-fi novels, maybe your characters have special powers, or belong to an entirely different race of beings.

Detailing these attributes will allow you to create a meaningful character, and monitor your consistency throughout your novel. In short you want to keep your character true, believable and authentic. A strong character sheet will also let you check the progress and development of your character over the course of the story. Do they end up where you want them to be in their emotional and physical journey?

When you have an authentic character—whether they be the good guy or the villain or somewhere in between—those characters will resonate with your readers and leave an impression.

Following are a some of the areas you will want to address:

  1. Name and general statistics – I like to give my characters first, middle, and last names. If they are a main character or important to the story I also like to give them birth dates, place of birth, and create a small family tree.  Are they a child of a single parent? Do they have siblings? Are there any immediate relatives who are important to them and play a role in their lives?
  2. Role in Story – Is this a main character? How important are they to the storyline or do they only play a very small part?
  3. Physical Description – This is everything from hair and eye colour right down to height and whether or not you see your character wearing glasses. Do they have a beard? Record all the details you can think of such as height, distinct characteristics, visible birthmarks, scars, or even tattoos.
  4. Occupation – What do they do for a living? What education level do they have? Do they have to travel for their work? Are they happy with what they do?
  5. Personality – Is your character extremely outgoing or an introvert? Are they quick to judge or get angry? Are they a patient or impatient individual? There are many character traits you can imagine for your characters.
  6. Habits/Mannerism – Are there things your character will do when they are happy, or upset? Any nervous habits? These can be sprinkled in to bring your story to life.
  7. Background – What type of childhood did they have? Where did they grow up?  This can also lead you back to their family and allow you to develop that side of the character further.
  8. Emotional Factors – What drives your character? What events have affected them in the past and how? Are they often frightened? Is the any history of illness? What do they want to change about themselves, or are they confident and secure? What conflicts do they have, both internally and externally?
  9. Character Growth – How do you feel your character will grow or change over the course of the story. How will the events you have planned in the book cause those changes?
  10. Additional notes – Leave room at the bottom to add any extra details not covered in the other sections.

Keep these notes close by through the entire process of writing and editing your novel and update them if you make any changes to your characters. This will be especially important if you plan to write a book series. Keeping track of several characters and all of their details is a monumental task that is made far easier with the help of this simple tool.

Thanks for reading!