One of the hardest things for a beginner writer is creating believable characters. To journey from the figment of our imagination to fleshed out character capable of standing on his or her own, can be difficult.
We all conceptualise our role as authors in different ways. Some of us feel that the characters we create are independent beings capable of disobedience, competition, refusal and even disdain for their creator (us!). Some of us see the characters as puppets who only do what we tell them to. And some of us are somewhere in between.
In my interpretation, all these are symptoms of author struggle - on one hand we have passivity and avoidance of responsibility, on the other - issues with being too controlling.
Maybe that's why a new writer struggles in bewilderment, trying to create something personal and independent at the same time, such as a character who will go on to interact with others thus giving rise to a compelling story. Because, like many have already pointed out, there's no story without characters.
To that end, I wanted to share my template which I refer to as "Character sheet". I use it for all my major characters, but sometimes I also “run” my minor ones through the categories. I find it helps all of them come to life, so to speak.
This information goes together with a folder on my computer titled "character in pictures". In it, I place pictures and visual details which remind me of the character in some way. I find this kind of visual reference, a scrapbook of sorts, incredibly helpful.
But my true thoughts about who the character is, are recorded in the Character sheet.
Once I compose the character sheet, I find that I don't have to refer to it often. But the process of compiling the character sheet in the first place, making decisions that have to be made in advance, helps me create unique and believable characters.
I use software indigenous to my computer, which allows me to collapse the headings, making all this information easily accessible in one file. This makes these sheets really convenient and easy to use.
TYPICAL CHARACTER SHEET
Anything name related goes in here. Family crests and family name history, first name meanings, different names under consideration and anything else name-related.
What role in the book this character plays? A heroine? A villain? An ally or antagonist?
A short summary of exactly what kind of role they are playing.
example: Powerful but reluctant to impose her will on others. Stranger to power, unwilling leader. Competent and versatile - easily fits in. Underestimate her at your peril.
Any real people or fictional characters that inspired you or that your character reminds of.
This is particularly helpful in devising a unique dialogue voice for your character.
Qualities, emotions, motivations
This is an extremely important category because this is where you build the psychological profile of your character.
Is she proud, youthful, secretive, flippant, superficial, angry, maternal, talented singer, shrewd, empathic, competitive etc etc. There are literally millions of qualities and character traits to choose from, the difficulty is matching them appropriately to describe a realistic person.
Working it through in this way can help correct inconsistencies and imagine motivations.
In my opinion, character flaws are even more interesting than qualities. You can have lots of fun in this section because you can dose the disagreeable aspects of your character according to their role, but you can vary aspects you will emphasise. This helps make conflicts diverse and original and characters multidimensional.
Even most self-assured