Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How I Build and Track my Characters

            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?


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 fav TV or movies that say something about characters persona

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