Writing Character Sheets
So you have this fab plot bunny and can’t wait to start writing your next best seller. You sit down at your computer, raring to go and not going to come up for air until you have at least five thousand words written. Sure, this sounds all hunky-dory but then the you hit the wall right around chapter four. (I know because this has happened to me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.) But there is a way to climb over the wall that works well for me. I get in touch with my characters. Not literally, of course. I simply write up a character sheet.
Usually up to this point I’m only working on a great idea and flimsy outline. I don’t really know my characters, their motivations, their backstory, the hopes and dreams that drive them to do what I want them to do. So what better way to delve into the minds of my characters than to develop them fully on paper, even though readers will probably never see all the details I dream up.
- The Basics
Every character has basic info that authors tend to use in order to picture them in their minds. Height, weight, race, nationality, gender, eye color, skin tone, hair style, etc. Whatever it is that you want your character to look like, this is where you flesh them out. Grab a picture off the Internet of your favorite celeb that embodies your character’s look and slap it up on your sheet if a visual helps you out better. The point is to write it as detailed as you can. The more detail, the more real your character becomes. This includes all your main characters.
- Simple Backstory
You have your plot, conflict, arc, redemption, etc. outlined, but your characters are the ones filling in the holes. They have to have motivations, history involving the plot. Whatever you come up with, it’s important to keep your facts straight. Write down what fuels your characters so you can reference it later.
What makes your character unique? Does your main male protag have a tendency to break out in song? Does your villain have a leave a mark after every crime? Character sheets are a great way to hammer out what your characters are good at or bad at. Does your female protag like to bite her nails or is really good at math? List all of these specialities on the sheet.
This is pretty simple. What do they do, where do they do it, and how do they do it. How do they feel while they are doing it? What’s the environment like?
- The Mundane
Everything that you can think of that doesn’t fall into these other categories, put here. Anything from what kind of clothes they wear to if they take showers in the morning or night. These little tidbits of info will help you form a clear and human character. The more you know about your character, the easier it can be to write them and know what they will do in any particular scene you need to create.
This is the part where I write feelings toward other characters, situations, how they will react to any given dilemma posed. The first reaction is usually the strongest, and this part of the sheet helps me understand where my character will go as the story progresses. I also will write different scenes that may not make it in the book or will come back to later.
Writing character sheets is different for every author. Personally, I write them in Word on a template I made, print them out, and pin them to my wall. I make sure I leave plenty of room for extra notes about each character while I write. There are other programs like Scrivener that helps you with character sheets and there are plenty of examples online. Check them out and let us know how you write character sheets.