The Crafting Characters Series #3 The Ultimate Character Sheet

Red hardcover book with flipping pages

I have tried to avoid doing character sheets for a REALLY long time. It’s not that I am lazy. I’m passionate and excited about my stories and characters. So coming to the conclusion I need to go back and interview my characters has been a bit bitter sweet. It’s painful, taking ages, and I am reluctant to do it. However, doing it has led to some really awesome character tidbits, potted histories and development of juicy subplots.

No one likes to admit they were wrong, I was desperate to just write the damn story. But I was wrong. The problem was, without the minute detail of a characters life, my story just wasn’t right. It was missing full, deep, rounded and detailed characters that bring texts to life. It’s those details, like the 50pence piece that reminds her of the summers she spent with her now deceased father. She carries that 50pence in her pocket everywhere she goes to remind her to never given up the search for his murderer. It’s those things you need. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure you can weave them into a story as a free writer, but not me. I got some detail in there, but I missed glaringly obvious things, like the fact that my antagonists twin sister actually hated him. What do you know – commence a whole other subplot and set up for book two. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t started these interviews.

Now, I have looked at, read, and digested approximately eight trillion character sheets. Ok, maybe one or two less than that. But still. I’ve read a lot. I’ve even downloaded, pinched and plagiarised my fair share. But for life nor money, I couldn’t find one that worked. There was always something missing, or questions that annoyed me. I felt like I already knew the basics – hair colour, eye colour, name and so on, aren’t those the obvious bits? We all know those details about our characters. Those details give me nothing more than a sketch, an outline and the surface of a character.

If I want the depth I need to write a publish worthy character then those questions just ain’t cutting the mustard. I’ve been looking for something more. Deeper questions. Those questions that get to the core of someone.

Questions like:

  • What or who would your character kill, or lie, or cheat for?
  • How do you react when someone you love hurts you?
  • Or how do you process emotion generally?
  • Who would you call in the middle of the night for help?
  • Who are your positive relationships with – or negative ones?
  • There are of course the other questions like, whats in your refrigerator, and what talents do they have? But you can see all of that in the template.

I thought I would add my template for you all to use. It is of course, created by me, and therefore I could well have left out obvious questions that would help form well rounded characters. I would be interested in your thoughts, do you like it? have I missed things? will you use it? I will update the template with any of your feedback and will re post for your use.

And when I finish filling it in I will try and share one with you too.

Character Interview Template

 

22 comments

    1. WOW, thanks for the recommendation, I have just followed him. Not sure what I should do next? comment and ask him to take a look?? *cries with nerves* Thank you for saying you like my posts, that really makes my week. Will reply to your email this eve 😀

      1. I think you go to the submissions tab and see if you can feed in through there. He is an amazing resource who deserves a knighthood for the amount he churns around.

        1. yeh I went there – it seemed like it was for ‘authors’ I class myself as a writer, but I can hardly call my self an author – first novel is still in pieces! short stories don’t count! ha. I emailed him though, and he has followed my blog, so fingers crossed he picks up the email and lets me post, would be off the chart amazing, did you see how many followers he has *jaw on the floor* I am going to spend some time updating the website because I have a load more resources and tweaks to add! its just getting the time! thank you so much for the suggestion though 🙂

      2. And I should have said your posts are genuinely helpful so deserve a wider audience. Mine are just light fluff which I hope a few enjoy. And ok I’m fishing for a compliment so don’t pander to my already easily inflated ego…!

        1. Lol, you know I think you are hilarious. To be quite honest, I have no idea why you aren’t a best selling comedic author already. Bloody outrage that is. ACTUAL tears I had rolling down my face at lunch. REAL ones too! Is your Dead Flies this funny? IF so it’s getting bumped to the top of the list!

          1. I hope it is but there are some hard parts too, part of a naive young man growing up fast. Humour is of course so personal so while I’m chuffed *puffs out chest* (which is more *sucks in stomach* these days) that you find some of my work funny I realise it doesn’t work for all. Still, as my aunt used to say ‘Darling, if you’ve got it, FLAUNT it’. Thank you

  1. I agree with Geoff – great post. And thanks for sharing your template. It looks quite useful, though I am not writing fiction at the moment so can’t really say. Dead flies is funny – a great read. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  2. I have tried character sheets, and find they don’t work for me. Other than writing down a physical description (so I don’t start out with a character having blue eyes, then later make them green) I just let the characters tell me their story as I go along. If I attempt building their lives before the story starts, it backfires on me. Each has their own story, and they tell me on a need to know basis. But to each his own. ?

    1. That’s really interesting. I was talking to a writer today who said they don’t write it down before starting their novel either. They said they have their characters memories embedded in their mind as if they were their own, it’s a fascinating subject this. I am intrigued by different writers processes :). My inconsistencies were one of the reasons I started creating a template sheet actually 🙂

  3. I found this series on character development on Chris’s blog, so I’m glad you connected with him! I’m following you now, too. Yours looks like a great site.

    Regarding the Character Interview Template, one thing you didn’t include but which probably seemed too obvious was to what generation they belong. I was just reading an article on “Millenials,” those who are in their late teens or early twenties now. It’s an interesting read comparing generations, and there’s a quiz you can do to find out “how Millenial you are based on the traits of this new generation. The quiz is at: http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/how-millennial-are-you/. (It won’t mean much, though, unless you read the study.)

    I scored 33, which put me right in with the Gen X crowd and is accurate with my birth date. Sometimes there are outliers, though, people who’s values, characteristics, and interests coincide with a generation other than the one they were born in. Is your character an outlier?

    Another cool thing rather than an interview might be to answer questions on behalf of your character in a free personality quiz. (I personally like the Keirsey personality test based on Jungian theory of personality types. There are four areas in which you are assessed, resulting in 16 personality types –> http://www.keirsey.com/sorter/register.aspx.) If you answer for your character, you may find out more about them by reading the summary of their personality type. Finding out from your friends what their personality type is–and who isn’t curious?–may help you answer questions about your character. You may, for example, be having difficulty imagining how your character would react in a certain situation. Just imagine a friend with that personality type and how they would react.

    1. Hi Connie, thank you for such a wonderful reply. I hadn’t thought about generational stuff, but thats a really good point. I suppose it would make more of a difference for someone writing historical fiction or fiction written in based on Earth. I am a fantasy writer which is probably why it didn’t occur to me. When I get a moment I will edit the template and upload it again to include your point – thank you 🙂 I will go take the test too I’m curious now! Now the personality tests I am more than familiar with. I have a degree and masters in Psychology, my personal favourite is Myers Briggs. It’s my own personal obsession, and there is a post in this series later down the line all about it. I have written a few before too, but this one will be specifically about character development. Thank you so much once again for the wonderful comment 🙂

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