I attended an RWA mini-conference this past weekend, and the subject of character development came up. Some attendees used character sheets; others didn’t, stating that they preferred to learn more about their characters through the process of exploration (i.e. writing a few chapters). Today I’m going to talk about the reasons why a character sheet might come in handy.
Here’s a list of the information my character sheet contains:
· Full Legal Name
· Age/Date of Birth
· Eye Color/Hair Color
· Paranormal/Special Abilities
· Place of Birth
· Place of Current Residence
· Influential People in Character’s Life
· Car Driven
· His/Her greatest pride
· His/Her greatest fear
· His/Her deepest longing
· His/Her pet peeve(s)
· My character will absolutely blow his stack if:
· My character would be totally shocked to learn that:
Many of the items on this list are simple physical things or characteristics that help me get a better sense of my character. But some of these are especially helpful when I’m in the plotting stages.
When first plotting a novel, I usually start out with a general story line but a good idea of one of my main characters, generally the hero. Using some of the items on this list, I can come up with the perfect heroine. How? I give her the qualities most likely to set my hero on edge. If I already know what will make my hero blow his stack, well then I can make sure my heroine does it. I either make her his deepest longing or give her the ability to grant him that (say for example he subconsciously wants a family). But to get the heroine, he’ll have to conquer his greatest fear.
It’s my humble opinion that a character sheet is a great plotting tool. I usually fill out the character sheet before doing most of my story plotting. So if you’re looking for a way to better connect with your characters, or need some plotting help, I suggest trying a character sheet. Maybe it’ll work for you too.
So what’s your process for getting to know your characters better? Do you use character sheets? Why or why not?