Tag Archives: characters

Character Work Sheet

Section A :: The First Impressions

  • Name:
  • Age:
  • Occupation:
  • Living Arrangements:
  • Who does this character look like?
  • Height:
  • Eye Color:
  • Hair Color:
  • Distinguishing Features:

Section B :: The Person Inside

  • His/Her Talents and Good Qualities:
  • His/Her Flaws:
  • What Does S/he Want?

Section C :: The Reason They’re Here

  • His/Her Role in the Story:
  • Where was the character before the events of the story? What was s/he doing?
  • In the character’s own words, how do they feel about the main conflict in the story?
  • In the character’s own words, what is their opinion about (character)?

Important Notes

___________________________________________

Section A: Pretty self-explanatory. Having an actor/actress/real-life person in mind really helps me to see the character as a person instead of words on a page.Sometimes, I’ll add an astrology sign in there, but oftentimes I find it too restricting, so I haven’t added it here.

Section B: A basic rundown of their important personality traits. Going a little more in depth here. As far as their flaws go, I tend to pick and choose from the Seven Deadly Sins. Everyone has a vice! And likewise, I choose one or two of the Seven Heavenly Virtues for their good quality traits. Try to find one trait to accentuate above the others.

Section C: The character’s relationship to your story and the other characters. This should be the section you spend the most time on, since it will directly affect the story you’re writing. The answers you put in here are subject to change depending on how organic your writing process is, but I find these particular questions essential to knowing my character. Their role in the story can be as simple as “MC” or “Main Bad Guy” to a detailed answer in paragraph form.

And your notes. Sometimes this sections runs a few pages as the story progresses and exposes more of the character’s quirks, tastes, other back story, feelings, street address, etc.

I’ve provided a downloadable version of this that you can edit and print out to your heart’s content.

Download the Character Worksheet


Twisted Protagonists

So many inspirational thoughts run through my mind while reading Dostoevsky. Perhaps that is why he is my favorite author. Perhaps it is why I admire him so much. In any case, Dostoevsky’s character description are without equal and brilliant, so vibrant, colorful and varied. And something then occurred to me, and I know it’s been said before, but this feeling wasn’t one I get from reading an ah-hah article.

Make your character flawed. A perfect character is superbly boring and will not hold the reader’s interest. A solid fact, a staple for any writer. But how flawed? Minor quirks won’t cut it. Making your character abnormally tall or hideously ugly isn’t a flaw. How I tackled this basic rule is by choosing one of the seven deadly sins and applying it to every character, good and bad. Of course, the sin would be accentuated in the antagonist(s). However, the protagonist(s) would still be heroic and striving for the good cause. And my characters were still boring to me.

Enter Dostoevsky’s unforgettable characters. Give them more than one deadly sin. Make them entirely twisted and dejected. I don’t mean dejected as in the repressed adolescent way. They need reasons to feel this way, legitimate mature reasons from a specific cause, and from a recent cause. And make them absolutely lovable and sympathetic while making them the most horrid and vile of humans.

And how does he do that? How do you sneer and frown at one of his characters, yet feel so much sympathy for him and hope that everything works out well for him? Well, I see that one way he achieves this is by having another character love him. I’ll give a specific answer, and try not to give the story away while I’m at it. Brothers Karamazov. Dmitri, an older brother of Alyosha, is a vain, quick-tempered, and vindictive man. Alyosha, on the other hand, is meek and good-willed. Dmitri exposes his flaws to Alyosha, and as the reader, you’re aghast at the words that come from Dmitri’s mouth (as is Alyosha). However, Alyosha refuses to see Dmitri’s filthy side of his personality as all he is, and Dmitri is taken aback by Alyosha’s kindness. So Dostoevsky has just planted the notion that Dmitri really is not so awful, and you suddenly realize that Dmitri must change, he HAS to change and become a good man.

Of course, it’s not quite that way — Dostoevsky’s characters may change, or they may never change. Yet, as far as Brothers Karamazov goes, the reader has somehow become so close to Dmitri that the faith in him is always there. That’s the magic of Dostoevsky. My opinion is this: by having such a twisted character as an MC, s/he needs another character to balance the negativity out. Except for the most hard-headed of all of us, most humans tend to seek support in any endeavor, including approving of or disapproving of someone. And that second character provides that assurance for us.

And perhaps another tactic he uses is to expose the MC’s flaws little by little. He may seem quite normal at first, but by page 100, you know he’s got issues (or is in the process of turning into a pyschopath). Have pages upon pages of character description of that twisted character. Well, the extraneous pages of character description is not much approved of these days (which I do not approve of — this current trend, that is), so I wouldn’t quite give that out as advice if you’re trying to gather a fan base.

Don’t be afraid of making your characters so evil that they might as well be the antagonist. Don’t hold back on them. Make them as bad and harsh as possible. They just might make your story. After all, we live in a day of extremes, right?


Top 5(6) Must-Read How-to Books

I will admit, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on how-to-write books. Call it procrastination, call it love of writing, call it whatever you will, but like me, if you’ve read so many of them like I have, you start to realize that they tend to repeat themselves after a while. However, a few gems have really stood out to me and stayed on my bookshelf instead of my half.com inventory. I’d like to share them with you.

Between the Lines

Probably the best how-to-write book I’ve read. It’s about how to lace suspense into the story, foreshadowing, back-story, story structure, flashbacks… I got a lot of tips from this one. If you get any book from this list, this is the one I recommend. A good read before or while you write as it’ll give you a good perspective on your story as a whole.

Words Fail Me, Woe is I

We are never as good with grammar as we’d like to be, are we? I don’t have

“Woe is I” in front of me but I found it just as useful as “Words Fail Me.” “Words Fail Me” is chockfull of grammar tips and how to write concisely.

Even though her books are focused more upon the art of writing, it is most useful for any novel writer. A book I can keep coming back to, kind of like “Elements of Style.” If you haven’t read Elements of Style, then get to it pronto!

Manuscript Makeover

Absolutely indispensable. However, after skimming this book, I waited to read this after I finished writing a novel because it appeared quite overwhelming. I would recommend it for whatever stage of writing you are in. There is no way to remember every tip given in this book, so best to just make a checklist of things that are pertinent to your writing stage as you read through it, then go back to your finished or unfinished story. This book is kind of similar to “Between the Lines” but offers information from a different point of view. Did I mention that an editor wrote this book? Offers story problems and solutions. A must-read.

Story Structure Architect

Great for when you know what genre(s) and theme you’re writing. It gives you a brief rundown of genres and what elements are expected in them. Then the rest of the book contains scenarios that are (exclusive) to that particular type of story. I use this for when I feel lacking in ideas and subplots. Gives 54 different situations of which includes “Flight & Pursuit,” “Adultery,” “Sacrifice for Love,” “Vengeance Taken for Kindred Upon Kindred,” “Self-Sacrifice,” just to name a few! Like I said, this book is indispensable for ideas.

The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

The only character book I’ve found useful. It’s not the typical book you read cover-to-cover; rather, you skim and pick up ideas and learn a few things. You’ll get the gist when you read the first chapter. If you know your character’s personality, then refer to this to give your character more depth and background. Gives information on nonverbal/verbal communication, physical disorders, career traits, psychological disorders, criminal styles, etc.