Character Creation

Its been a while since I was here posting, but my reason is legit. My Internet connection has been on the blitz since I got my new modem and refuses to let me on the Internet for any length of time and since I was in the process of get my first book ready for publication, it took precedence. I mention this for a reason, and its not self-promotion, but because it has to do with a series of posts I want to do. The first of these is Character Creation. I start with this one because character development is one of the most important tasks in writing fiction.

Characters are important to story plot they move the plot along. Developing them will bring your story and your world to life for the readers. Take the time to plan them out prior to writing will make them real to you and later to your readers. But how much do you need to know about them before you start to write? Well this all depends on the type of fiction your writing: flash fiction, short stories, novella, novels, or book series. Each of these types will determine the amount of character development needed to make your characters come to life.

Flash Fiction

I dont usually write this type of fiction, but I have learned over the years that it doesnt require a lot of character development. For those who dont know what Flash Fiction is, it is considered the hardest type of writing. You have to create a story with the minimum of words and have it make sense. Since you only need the basics, your character sheet may look like this:

Name:

Age:

Height/Weight:

Hair color/style:

Eye color:

Complexion and skin tone:

Character’s body build:

Short Stories

This is another one of those fiction types that I have tried my hand at and probably will never be my cup of tea. They have a higher word count then flash fiction, so you have more flexibility with the character development. You may give your readers more character’s descriptions and background information, which will make them more real for your readers. The character sheet might look like this:

Name:

Age:

Height/Weight:

Hair color/style:

Eye color:

Complexion and skin tone:

Character’s body build:

Identifying marks (tattoos, scars, etc):

Facial features:

Mannerisms or gestures (hand gestures, ticks, etc):

Scent:

Character back story:

Novellas and Novels

When writing a novella or novel you need to know your characters because more details will be required then any of the previous fiction types. Novellas and Novels are character driven as well as plot driven, and so character sheets with more detailed physical description, personality traits, and an extensive background will go a long way to making your story one that pulls a reader in, make the reader care for your characters, and keep them reading from beginning to end.

Name:

Nickname:

Age:

Height/Weight:

Hair color/style:

Eye color:

Complexion and skin tone:

Character’s body build:

Identifying marks (tattoos, scars, etc):

Facial features:

Mannerisms or gestures (hand gestures, ticks, etc):

Scent:

Clothing (A note on describing clothing. Unless clothing change is crucial to your story’s plot limit your fashion descriptions. You dont need to tell every single piece of clothing your character is wearing. A basic idea of their attire is enough for most readers.)

Character back story:

Personality traits:

Needs of the character:

Ambitions:

Father’s name:

Age:

Physical appearance:

Mother’s name:

Age:

Physical appearance:

Sibling’s names and descriptions:

Favorite sayings:

Interests and hobbies:

Favorite foods:

Favorite colors:

Other favorites that are important (sports, cars, clothes, books, décor. etc):

Pets:

Education:

Religion:

Job(s):

Financial situation:

Future plans:

Possessions this character values most:

What drives your character:

How does your character handle conflict:

What is standing in your character’s way:

What is their favorite room and why:

What vehicle do they drive:

What are your character’s prejudices:

How does your character feel about love:

About crime:

What is their neighborhood like:

What is your character’s philosophy on life:

What is your character’s family life like:

It has been suggested by some, that a rough background and timeline for the character, from childhood through the start of the story, broken down into 5 to 10 (if they are fairly old) year spans, is needed.

A profile summary, taking everything you have for the character and write up a one or two paragraph summary. It is a good way to focus your character’s information, and could be used in your story.

Book Series

Im more of a book series type of person and over the years I found the more in-depth character sketch dont help me much. I stick with the basic ingredients of character development: the characters name, their role in the novel, their physical attributes, their mannerisms, their personality traits, their background, their internal and external conflict, their education, and their occupation. Everything else is secondary, extra stuff, or optional.

If you find some tidbit that needs to be added to the character sheet you can add the extra stuff as the series moves along. Then, if you ever need to reference back to it, especially if the character is the main character or even the secondary character in the next books, you dont have to rely on your memory to remember what color their eyes were or what their perfume smelled like. I dont know how many times Ive read series where the color of the eyes changes from blue to brown to green from one book to the next.

It is imperative to keep some kind of record of their traits, because there are avid readers who will catch these mistakes. It will cost you less to keep a project notebook, bible, or folder with character sheets to reference back to and will go a long way to keep the continuity of your books intact.

5 Comments

  1. Good to see you back. 😀

    I stick with the basics. I’ve found characters develop with the story, so it’s impossible to know all that long list of items about a character before going into a book. I don’t know how many times I started a book with the idea that my character would have this “prejudice” only to see it change somewhere along the way.

    The jotting down notes on the eye color, etc is a good idea. People do make comments about that if you mess up, but to be fair to indie authors, I’ve seen this as a problem with traditionally published books as well that was carefully eyed by editors. Indies, however, are not given the same amount of grace that traditionally published authors are, which is why we have to be more vigilant.

    1. Stephannie says:

      It’s more of a touch and go. Not sure what is wrong with the modem or the internet service. Sometimes it allows me on for only a few minutes and other times for hours. Urgh! Stupid thing.

      I usually fill in my character sketches as I go and they aren’t always so in-depth. I wanted to give everyone an example of what they can put in their character sheets 🙂

  2. I’m not by any means an expert, but something I’ve learned about flash fiction (yes, i had to learn to write it, though sadly there’s not a lot of advice out there for it!) is to just use “I”. “I went here. I did this. I feel like this”. It helps a lot on the word count and generally in flash fiction the main character is not as important as the event, though you might need a name for them if someone else is addressing them.

    I agree about notes! especially if the book takes awhile to write, or if it’s a series. What I do is I have a word document with everyone’s name that I just copy and paste chunks of text straight from the manuscript into, including their descriptions, or conversations about their past, or the descriptions of their houses, etc.

    like:

    KATELINA:
    Blonde, long hair. blue eyes. Worked at a newspaper for Mr. Fordrent as an assistant to the editor. smoked until just before Patrick’s death. Dad died when she was very young on November 16th and every year she and her mom go to the cemetery for “grave Day”. Her mom is marriage minded and nags her: “When are you going to find a nice man? When are you going to settle down? When are you going to get married?”

    Scars:
    Left Shoulder stitches removed – scar – mess Claudius made
    Left forearm, fleshy part, – scar from Claudius fight
    Right side of neck, tiny dots – jesslynn

    Her apartment:
    She welcomed the comforting familiarity of her apartment. After double locking the front door, she dropped onto the couch and stared past the pink curtains to the landscape beyond. The view afforded by her windows was nothing spectacular; she found herself gazing at the second story of the buildings across the street. Old brick buildings that had been built long ago mirrored the one she now sat in, stores on the lower levels and apartments on the upper ones. In the building directly across from hers heavy curtains were tightly drawn in the top windows while the bottom shop windows were decorated with pink and white ballerina cut-outs; a dance studio.
    She leaned back against the arm of the sofa, stretching her legs out in front of her, and stared around the comfortable front room. Two book cases dominated the furnishings while her couch and chair sat pressed against the wall, both splattered with creamy colored flowers. A coffee table was stacked with various items including books, knickknacks, a bottle of nail polish and a disused ashtray that had been a gift……..
    ……..She looked back at her apartment door, at the tiny gold numbers and the little wooden name plaque Sarah had made for her.

    1. Nice example on the notes. Mine is much more random…

      Amy – 34, first husband died 3 years ago, Sean, travel agent, shoulder-length aubrun hair, blue eyes, last period May 14 (to note the due date when she gets pregnant in the story)

      That’s the most I ever do. I never thought of doing that for house or apartment settings.

      I agree with the “I” person in flash fiction. It’s easier to keep track of who is who. 🙂

    2. Stephannie says:

      I believe some types of notes are important. For myself I usually don’t do a in-depth character sketch. I do the basic description of the person and then add the little tidbits that could be important later.

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