A surprisingly simple way to keep track of your characters.

Sketch by Robert Conley

Sketch by Robert Conley

Please welcome guest blogger and writer K. Victoria Smith!

I was recently chatting with fellow writers on Twitter and the topic of character development came up. I mentioned that I had put together my own worksheet to keep track of and flesh out key characters.  It has helped me and I happily share it with you.

Remember that this is an organic document and you should add things as you discover them.  You may not need a full blown sheet for all characters but should use this or something similar to keep track of those pesky details such as: What color did I say his eyes were 30 pages ago? Do yourself a favor and fill one out for the antagonist. Readers
won’t buy a two-dimensional bad guy.

Character Development Worksheet

Who is ____________?

Physical description: Height, weight, build, eye color, hair color, length and texture, other distinguishing features (glasses/contacts, etc).

Family history/tree: Include birthplace, relationship with and between parents, key events of childhood/adolescence if relevant. Does ethnicity affect character? Where in the world are they from? How does this impact?

Education:

Employment:

Living Situation: Where, with, pets, key elements of home, are they in a relationship? What does their love life look like?

Hobbies, Food favorites or dislikes: Include allergies if relevant to plot or personality.

How others see him/her: How she/he sees herself/himself:

What she/he isn’t  saying (maybe even to herself/himself):

What does he/she say they want?

What does he/she really want? Often different from the question above. Psychologically, emotionally. If it is a “bucket list,” ask them why that thing is so important that they have to do it before they die.

Songs you will find on his/her IPod: Can expand to include favorite TV or movies that say something about character’s persona.

Other items important to this character plot: Phobias (is there a reason-think Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code), Languages spoken.

What other characteristics, habits, strengths, or flaws, would you give your characters?

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

Sources: Photo courtesy of Robert Conley, Brainy Quote

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10 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

10 responses to “A surprisingly simple way to keep track of your characters.

  1. Great tool for characters!

  2. karenselliott

    I thought so too – thanks to K. Victoria Smith for this post.

  3. I use to use a sheet like that, I also used a pinup board to layout family trees, but now, since I’m on my computer anyway, I use a program that is free called ActionOutline. The trial never runs out, the pro is affordable. You can find more about it at http://www.actionoutline.com/

  4. karenselliott

    Thanks for the tip, Rob!

  5. I too use something similar on a Spreadsheet format, with separate pages for different areas of the “Meat of the Book”. So much easier than tootling back and forth using “Find”.

  6. karenselliott

    Another good tip. Thanks, Kathleen!

  7. This is a really good thing! The novel software that I use has a character section where you can add some of the above, but what you posted gives me even more detail and will really help on my new characters for my next novels. Thanks!!

  8. karenselliott

    I can’t take any credit for this post – except that I brought K. Victoria Smith to my blog with this character sketch! 🙂

  9. Have you seen Eric Maisel’s book What Would Your Character Do? It has situations to put a character in to see how they’d react. It has personality descriptions for different reactions and such. I think starting with this list you’ve got here, and then trying out some different scenarios would help flesh out characters.

    Helpful post!

  10. karenselliott

    I just read parts that are available on Amazon “look inside.” Interesting! I’ll bet it’s a good read. Thanks for the tip.

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