Character Worksheets? Do you use them?
Get To Know Your Fictional Characters.
How do you get to know the characters in your novel? Do you audition them before you even write your first word? If you want your characters to be believable and well rounded it is important that you know them inside and out. You must be able to determine how they will act or react in any given situation
Do you interview your characters? Do you have a favorite worksheet or template that helps you get to know your characters? It is easy to come up with your own set of questions for you characters.
How much do you need to know about your fictional characters? While you need to quite a bit more about the background, physical features, mannerisms, fears, goals and the likes and dislikes of your major characters, it is also important know about your minor characters
You will find many articles on-line that cover this topic. The internet offers a plethora of forms and templates that you can download and use as a guide. The level of depth differs for major and minor character. I find these worksheets extremely useful as I prepare character bios for all my characters
You cannot write a novel with believable characters if you the author do not know who they are. You need to know more than just hair and eye color or height and weight. How do other characters view this character? What is his strongest positive personality trait? Was he brought up in a strictly religious home and how does that affect the choices he will be forced to make in your story?
Is your impact character a follower or a leader? What are her hobbies? What is her position in the family (youngest or oldest) and how does she relate to her family. Does she keep her friends close and enemies closer?
How does your protagonist see herself? Is it basically the same or does it differ drastically from the opinion of others? What is her greatest accomplishment in life? Does she put on a facade and present herself to others as a competent and confident woman while secretly battling a case of low self esteem
Did something terrible happen to your villain when he was a child? Did he never recover from witnessing his mother’s brutal murder? Does he act all macho, but is deathly afraid of thunder and lightning?
Or maybe your antagonist lost her husband and child in a car accident and has a secret agenda to punish all drunk drivers. Perhaps she suffers from borderline personality disorder because she was raised by a single alcoholic mom and she is unable to let go in relationships.
If you don't know your character then you cannot possibly know the choices he or she will make
Will you actually need all of this information to write your novel? Probably not, but it helps you write believable if not understandable actions and reactions. If you are not intimately familiar with your characters you can't possibly know the difficult choices they will make.
Characters are just like real people. We all have a breaking point and our history, background, beliefs, morals, strengths and weaknesses help determine where that point is.
Think of yourself; what or who would you lie for? Steal for? Kill for? Now delve deep into your own history, emotions, experiences and morals, now conjure up some of your lifetime experiences and use them to get inside your character’s head.. Even the most reasonable, moral, law abiding, church going do- gooder can have her moral compass go south. The trick to good writing is to know what it would take for this to happen and to do that you have to know your characters.
Character worksheets are helpful if you have to put your writing away for a while and pick it back up later. You will have an easy reference for all of your characters so you don’t have to reinvent them or search through your entire manuscript for the details. I also find character worksheets helpful during my revisions when I realize I made a mistake on let’s say, page 233 by giving a minor character chocolate colored eyes when they are actually hazel (or have been throughout my book). You get the point.
For a basic template that is useful for recording the minimal amount of information needed for your characters, Tabitha, has a great one that you can download or her blog Writer Musings. You will also find other interesting and helpful articles that are writer related. Check out her blog. http://tabwriter.blogspot.com
The most detailed character chart or worksheet that I have discovered belongs to Charlotte Dillon. She offers a free download
Here. Charlotte writes mostly romantic fiction, but her character worksheet works for all genres. I am using it now and I love it. Visit her blog to read other informative post at www.charlottedillon.com
I recently downloaded another character worksheet generated by Pamela Dowd. This is also detailed and works for major and minor characters. I especially like the format.
Do you have a magic set of questions or a form that you use? Please share.