Monday, October 15, 2012

Character Sheets

Character sheets are very handy to use when planning a story. They help establish a foundation on which to build. Since I occasionally do characterization sessions for schools and groups, I thought I’d share the points I cover when designing a character.

1 - Name and gender

2 - Background:
  • Race or culture
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Upbringing - how they were raised, positive or negative?
  • Siblings
  • Parents & other relatives
  • Economic status

3 - Personality:
  • Type - Choleric (oldest, leader, worker, persuasive, extroverted, unemotional), Phlegmatic (middle, peaceful, friendly, indecisive, introverted, unemotional), Sanguine (youngest, playful, unorganized, talkative, extroverted, emotional), or Melancholy (only, perfect, artistic, sensitive, introverted, emotional).
  • Strengths - what are they good at?
  • Weaknesses - impulses, issues, etc.
  • Interests
  • Goals - this can be what propels the story.

4 - Physical attributes:
  • Build
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Eye/hair color
  • Intelligence

5 - Misc.:
  • Birthday
  • Friends
  • Spouse/GF/BF
  • Children
  • Other - any other details not covered above.

Anything else you add when designing your characters?

And if anyone would like a copy of my characterization sheet, just email me!

31 comments:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great list. Of course for my fantasy novels, some characters need a description of how their magic works and the limitations of it.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great points. Getting to know our characters well is so important!

RHYTHM AND RHYME said...

Many great points you made, interesting to read.

Yvonne.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now I can think of more details I need to add to mine.

Karen Lange said...

I love tools like this. I am an organizer (mostly, anyway) and things like this help me keep things straight in my head. Glad you shared this, appreciate it! :)

Bish Denham said...

These are all great questions. I often time write a page or two about a character's psychological make-up. What makes him do the things he does? Why is she so sarcastic? Why introverted or secretive or aggressive...

Lynn said...

Great questions! I also ask what unique 'quirk' of habit they have. Do they snort when they laugh? Bite nails when nervous or tap foot?

Jai Joshi said...

I add political beliefs, most painful setback/experience, most meaningful experience, sexual values, and attitudes towards life and death. I also consider what their fatal flaw is and their greatest strength.

I find that considering all these issues helps me think of them as real people.

Great post, Diane!

Jai

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Nice worksheet, Diane! And a good way to think through characters when we start out our story.

Steven said...

I fill out similar sheets of information. Another thing I've found helpful is to write some journal entries for each of the characters--it really helps me get in their heads.

Johanna Garth said...

It's funny. I've been using these for a while but didn't know they were called Character Sheets.

LD Masterson said...

Good list. I like to include little physical habits, i.e. Jack always scratches his chin when he's trying to make a decision. And eating habits/favorite foods.

Hart Johnson said...

I'm feeling like a real slacker. I sort of go from gut--maybe document a few lines. But it's a great idea. Actually, for the series I am plotting, it might in fact be wise, since 7 books require more intention than one.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Good additions to the list, everyone!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I know it would probably be helpful to do this before I even start my first draft, but I tend to wait until I'm doing my first round of rewrites before I flesh out my characters. I hope that gives them a chance to lead me into their lives instead of me forcing them to follow my plan.

Maryann Miller said...

This is a great list, especially for a continuing series. My list for my series is not so well organized. I will adapt yours with your permission. Thanks...

randi lee said...

What a great tool! I will most certainly be using this!

Jay Noel said...

I would like a copy please! I've gone from pantster to outliner. And now the character sheet will help me BIG TIME in organizing my characters.

Thanks!

jayrey72@gmail.com

M Pax said...

Great sheets. I'll need to print some out. It'll help me be more organized, too.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have an extensive worksheet that I copied from a book on characterization. The only problem is it's very looooong. I don't use most of it. Just the stuff that's relevant (my character's take on abortion rights and gun control is never relevant to my stories). I spend most of my time working on the back story/character wound.

Heather Murphy said...

This is a great list! I never considered some of these points.

shelly said...

Nail biter. Twitcher. Pacer.

Nancy Thompson said...

Oh, oh, oh, I love all that stuff in number 3!! Thank you, thank you!

Denise Covey said...

I often make lists like these. It really helps, especially when you realise you don't know your mc's surname halfway through your story!

Susanne Drazic said...

This is a great list, Diane. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Ella said...

I love this! Thank you so much~
I want to see some of your photos :D
Diane you rock!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane .. such a brilliant list - and I'm sure so helpful .. we do need rounded characters so we see them develop as we read the novel ..

Great information .. cheers Hilary

Stephen Tremp said...

Favourite words, phrases, expletives and
Role/relation to other main and minor characters. There can always be the sidekick to the main character.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Everyone has such great ideas of how to expand this list.

Mark Murata said...

This is absolutely essential. I include things like habitual exclamations, such as "Dah!" Or "Gad!"

Tolkien said he had to write down the details of the individual dwarves in The Hobbit, because one of his children pointed out he had changed the color of one of their cloaks.

creativewritingintheblackberrypatch said...

Like someone already mentioned, I like to give my character a quirk, habit or expression that they always do or say. I like to make them unique!