This month I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of wrapping up the first draft of Into The Black, the fantasy novel I’ve been working on. I’ll make another post later to go into more detail on that.
While talking with a couple friends who are also participating, the subject of character sheets come up. I’m a big fan of character sheets. I’ve got one that I fill out for all of the notable characters in any fiction project or screenplay that I write, and another more in-depth one that I use for POV characters. The sheets I use were pieced together from multiple ones that I found online (credit: dehydromon & The Lazy Scholar) and modified to fit my needs. They’re constantly evolving as I find new information I want to include, & a lot of my projects require specific fields that aren’t a part of the base sheet you’ll find below. Change yours up and make them your own!
Character sheets are good for a lot of things, but there are three main reasons why I love them:
1. Fleshing Out A Character
This is the obvious reason. After I became a member of Team Outline, I started to really enjoy developing my characters before I ever started to write the story itself. I found it extremely helpful as a means of fleshing out characters who I hadn’t quite grasped yet. It’s easy to come up with ideas for POV characters and other main characters as you write, but too often minor characters fall by the wayside. Having a predefined set of information to fill out gave me a great starting point, and in the process I’d usually grasp onto something that gave me a solid idea of who the character is.
Ideally, every character should have a rich enough backstory and defined personality that you could tell the whole story from their perspective. Now, it would be a very different story from the one you want to tell, which is why you didn’t choose them as a POV. But if you’ve taken the time to dig deep into that character, identify who they are, where they came from, and what makes them tick, they’re going to jump off the page a whole hell of a lot more than one that’s just a generic stock friend/co-worker/family member.
2. Differentiate Characters
Worried that your characters are too similar? At a glance, you can check their sheets and make sure they have distinctive appearances, backgrounds, likes/dislikes, you name it! Sometimes this has to do with physical characteristics, which is usually the audience’s first impression of a character and how they keep them separate in their minds, and sometimes it has to do with how they speak or where they come from. Having character sheets saves you from having to dig through your memory or hundreds of pages of story to make sure you didn’t make five characters who all unintentionally look like Dolph Lundgren.
3. Keeping Track of New Information
This has to do with more than just looking back at your original notes to make sure you got so-and-so’s hair color correct. As I’m writing and I come up with more information or details about a character, I’ll go back and add that information to their sheet. That way, instead of having to find the specific chapter where I mentioned something, I can just refer to the character sheet and find the information (along with a footnote saying where in the story it came up.)
This is where the three sections at the end (Biography, Additional Notes, & Things To Include Later) come in handy. Biography is where I place background information & things from the character’s past. Additional Notes can be anything that doesn’t fit into the other sections, from personality traits and desires to questions that I still need to answer. And then Things To Include Later is where I put ideas for things I want the character to do later in the story (obviously.)
Place of Birth:
First Appearance in the Story:
Theme Song (what song best describes this character?):
How does the character dress?
Equipment or anything else they carry with them:
Habits (smoking, drinking etc.):
Talents, Skills, & Special Training:
Most Important Relationships
Additional Notes on This Character
Things To Include Later
Death (If Applicable)
Age at Death:
Place of Death:
Manner of Death: