When I was in high school, I wrote character sketches. Only at the time, I had no idea the importance of what I was doing. I still have notebooks full of characters that I’d forgotten, but still demand their stories to be told. I have their names, ages, weight, height, physical charactaristics, family background, occupation. Weaved throughout are tidbits of the plot – just so I wouldn’t forget where they fit into the story.
Now, as a writer with some experience under my belt. I realize the importance of these documents. I haven’t used one in ages – I didn’t want to “stifle” myself. But I’m finding with so many life distractions, I need those little sheets of paper to remind me of important details that would drive people crazy if they changed. (I read a book once where a character’s name actually changed midway.) I also have a file full of photographs of interesting people, and I sometimes use a photograph to help remember what the character looks like. It’s easy to glance up while writing for affirmation sometimes, rather than break the flow to dig through my files.
Here are the items I list on the sheet:
- Physical Charactaristics (height, weight, eye and hair color, deformities)
- External Conflicts
- Internal Conflicts
- Miscellaneous (could include obsession with a car, or a habit that makes the character stick out)
This information also helps me see where the characters are solid and where they need development. It helps me get to know them intimately – and as a writer, that’s essential to a riveting story.0