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:
It’s been two weeks since I’ve updated this, but it’s been a busy two weeks. I had my audition for the Atlanta Unifieds this past Tuesday, and was very happy with how it went. Also, I finished filming Home Sweet Home last Saturday, which was a week later than I had originally planned because of complications that arose, but I’ve learned to expect problems by this point (since they’ve come up in every single film project I’ve ever attempted.) Then on the last night of shooting, there was an interesting moment where I was filming a scene outside the Trade Center that involved an actress screaming bloody murder, and a police car pulled up to ask me some questions. All things considered, though, I was really glad it was the police, because the alternative probably wouldn’t have been good at all.
Now that April is here, it’s time for me to really get to work. I have to get Home Sweet Home edited fairly soon so I can get it to Sean & Will so they can work on the sound & color correction respectively. I also have to finish editing The Dark Side of Sun Rock; I have a self-imposed deadline for that being completed by the beginning of May so I can get it into a few festivals, but more urgently I need to get a few clips from it to my lead actress for her reel. There are a couple of scenes in it that are still driving me berserk because of continuity problems or lack of good coverage which I’m still trying to find solutions for, and which may result in me headdesking until something comes to me.
The other thing I’ve got going on in April is Script Frenzy, the younger cousin of NaNoWriMo. For anyone unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is a writing event in November where the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Script Frenzy is similar, except instead of a novel, the goal is to write a 100 page script in one month. I’ve been looking forward to this since I found out about it a few weeks ago, and set aside one of the screenplays I’d been developing until April for this. It’s entitled Once Bit, and it’s my take on the vampire genre. I’m really excited about it, and can’t wait to see how it turns out. If you’re interested in undertaking this challenge as well, let me know so I can have other people to commiserate with. My user ID on the site is IcyBrian.