1. Loli
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    Loli New Member

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    Extremely detailed character template - useful?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Loli, Nov 23, 2008.

    I was wondering what you guys thought about this template. I'm working on a very MC based novella but it's been so long since I've written fiction that I'm having trouble fleshing out... anything?

    I'm trying to document her l life in flashbacks, which is difficult since I'm 18 and she's 80. I have no clue what a 43 year old goes through :) I was planning on reading and interviewing to help come up with any experience I can, but I was wondering about this sheet.

    Is it too detailed? Will it pigeon hole me? I was planning on doing one for every ten years of her life.

    Thanks!

    Character Chart
    Character’s full name:
    Reason or meaning of name:
    Character’s nickname:
    Reason for nickname:
    Birth date:

    Physical appearance
    Age:
    How old does he/she appear:
    Weight:
    Height:
    Body build:
    Shape of face:
    Eye color:
    Glasses or contacts:
    Skin tone:
    Distinguishing marks:
    Predominant features:
    Hair color:
    Type of hair:
    Hairstyle:
    Voice:
    Overall attractiveness:
    Physical disabilities:
    Usual fashion of dress:
    Favorite outfit:
    Jewelry or accessories:

    Personality
    Good personality traits:
    Bad personality traits:
    Mood character is most often in:
    Sense of humor:
    Character’s greatest joy in life:
    Character’s greatest fear:
    Why?
    What single event would most throw this character’s life into complete turmoil?
    Character is most at ease when:
    Most ill at ease when:
    Enraged when:
    Depressed or sad when:
    Priorities:
    Life philosophy:
    If granted one wish, it would be:
    Why?
    Character’s soft spot:
    Is this soft spot obvious to others?
    Greatest strength:
    Greatest vulnerability or weakness:
    Biggest regret:
    Minor regret:
    Biggest accomplishment:
    Minor accomplishment:
    Past failures he/she would be embarrassed to have people know about:
    Why?
    Character’s darkest secret:
    Does anyone else know?

    Goals
    Drives and motivations:
    Immediate goals:
    Long term goals:
    How the character plans to accomplish these goals:
    How other characters will be affected:

    Past
    Hometown:
    Type of childhood:
    Pets:
    First memory:
    Most important childhood memory:
    Why:
    Childhood hero:
    Dream job:
    Education:
    Religion:
    Finances:

    Present
    Current location:
    Currently living with:
    Pets:
    Religion:
    Occupation:
    Finances:

    Family
    Mother:
    Relationship with her:
    Father:
    Relationship with him:
    Siblings:
    Relationship with them:
    Spouse:
    Relationship with him/her:
    Children:
    Relationship with them:
    Other important family members:

    Favorites
    Color:
    Least favorite color:
    Music:
    Food:
    Literature:
    Form of entertainment:
    Expressions:
    Mode of transportation:
    Most prized possession:

    Habits
    Hobbies:
    Plays a musical instrument?
    Plays a sport?
    How he/she would spend a rainy day:
    Spending habits:
    Smokes:
    Drinks:
    Other drugs:
    What does he/she do too much of?
    What does he/she do too little of?
    Extremely skilled at:
    Extremely unskilled at:
    Nervous tics:
    Usual body posture:
    Mannerisms:
    Peculiarities:

    Traits
    Optimist or pessimist?
    Introvert or extrovert?
    Daredevil or cautious?
    Logical or emotional?
    Disorderly and messy or methodical and neat?
    Prefers working or relaxing?
    Confident or unsure of himself/herself?
    Animal lover?

    Self-perception
    How he/she feels about himself/herself:
    One word the character would use to describe self:
    One paragraph description of how the character would describe self:
    What does the character consider his/her best personality trait?
    What does the character consider his/her worst personality trait?
    What does the character consider his/her best physical characteristic?
    What does the character consider his/her worst physical characteristic?
    How does the character think others perceive him/her:
    What would the character most like to change about himself/herself:

    Relationships with others
    Opinion of other people in general:
    Does the character hide his/her true opinions and emotions from others?
    Person character most hates:
    Best friend(s):
    Love interest(s):
    Person character goes to for advice:
    Person character feels responsible for or takes care of:
    Person character feels shy or awkward around:
    Person character openly admires:
    Person character secretly admires:
    Most important person in character’s life before story starts:
    After story starts:
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Generally I don't use character templates much as it makes me feel like I've pigeon holed my character into being a certain way. Then as I'm writing I'm like, wait a minute this isn't working... And then the character is screwed because I have to do a whole lot of rewriting to fix the problem. Usually I just start with a generic background and personality: Bob, car washer, sarcastic and anti-social. Then As I'm writing I flesh him out and add new stuff until he's: Bobby Bo Bob, super car wash manager. Often sarcastic and demeaning to his annoying employees to the point where many quit after a few weeks. He tends to be anti-social choosing only to talk to beautiful women with fancy cars, and generally being abnormally sexist towards men etc etc.

    I find it's a more flexible system. I know character templates work for some people but I've never been able to get them to work right (though usually I'll compile one as the characters story unfolds so I can go to it to reference information and refresh my memory rather than going back and reading pages of writing).
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I too despise character templates. The best description of a character is the story he or she appears in.

    All the time spent in filling out a template, in my opinion, would be better spent in writing the story. In fact, I would be tempted to call templates a way to procrastinate from writing.

    Besides that, templates are static; good characters are not.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ditto...three votes "No"...doesn't make us "right", it's just a reflection of our personal preference in character development and characterization.
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I would agree...somewhat

    exactly! I know most of those answers for Kate, but its' because she's grown in my head over the past year, so she's developed those characteristics.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    make that 4 votes!

    it's your story that should have been growing during that year, not just one character in it... and why a novella, anyway, since there's no market for them? [unless you're in the uk or europe, where there may be]...
     
  7. Loli
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    Loli New Member

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    To be honest I'm not trying to market it.

    I've been struggling at coping with loss and mortality, so I decided to write a character-based piece that would help me accept these things.

    It is leading to quite a bit of depression though, but all the great writers overdosed after their best work =)

    ...

    Kidding!


    I was thinking it would lead to procrastination myself. Any advice on how to flesh out a character that has outlived you sixty years?
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I only write down a few notes in case I forget. Names, hair color and style, age, their address if I ever use it. Any information I think I will need later. For instance in the first draft of Vampire Stasis I forgot to write notes for Julie's school schedule. Later on I forgot which of her classes were after lunch and before lunch, and it was important.

    So I take little notes as I write just in case.
     
  9. Suomyno
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    Suomyno Member

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    I'm not a fan of using templates myself... I used them when I started writing, but soon I felt like I was being limited by the template. And, like Cog said, a good character changes over the story, and that isn't really shown in a template. I sometimes use little notes like Architectus because I can be forgetful about some details, but other than that I prefer to get the story written instead of spending time doing a or multiple templates.
     
  10. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    I'm kind of relieved that I'm not the only one that detests templates.
    I've tried to use them before - but in the end they just made me want to pull my hair out.

    Usually I only describe the basic outline within a paragraph or two.
    The rest I let come to me as I write.
    Hell sometimes I don't write down anything at all except for the story itself. I never really forget anything I think of - even old ideas I still remember.... so a lot of the time I skip that step all-together. Which could very well be my impatience haha.

    All-in-all I'm glad people don't find them essential.
     
  11. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Okay, with respect, I'd suggest forgetting about the template. As was said before, it'll bog you down when you could be achieving more by proactively tackling the problem. An exercise you could try would be to put the book out of mind for the time being and begin exploring your character by putting her into 'friendly' situations initially, where certain characteristics may 'gently' come to the fore. This can easily be accomplished by sending her on a journey to meet someone or acquire something that may have a life enhancing affect. Maybe she'll help someone in need, or make someone's day, or even overcome her own fear of travelling outside her own area. Putting her into non-complex situations, initially, will certainly assist you in discovering what she's about. Then, after enjoying such discovery, and allowing her a certain free reign in her adventures, you can maybe start getting more serious and consider using your knowledge to get your novel going. Whatever way you decide to go, detail will only develop through your character's action and reaction, and by 'action', I don't necessarily mean having her absailing off a skyscraper or smashing through a plate-glass window. No, she could simply be negotiating her way around a busy shopping centre with an over-laden shopping trolley, trying to remember where the damn frozen food section is. The important thing in discovering character is allowing your character space to be. Good luck with your project.
     
  12. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Templates are mainly best for use after you've already spent time developing the character; they can help you keep track of details you might otherwise forget. In terms of helping you develop the character in the first place, they're not often that useful.

    The best way to get to know your character? Write them. Put yourself in their head. Live through them. Write some fiction about them and see them in action. Observe, and learn. Even if it isn't the story you plan to work on, you'll be learning about your character through experience--and that's one of the quickest ways to learn.

    I've learned the most about my characters and fictional worlds by just writing them and finding out through the story itself.
     
  13. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    I think it's a wonderful way to procrastinate from writing. I'm often completely stuck on plot, so I need to focus on something else. Character profiles always inspire plot and events for me.

    I don't think it ties you down too much. I almost always use character profiles (most of them my own, though) and they're constantly changing. I just mainly use them to get story ideas and to keep track of how the character would most likely react to actions and events.
    I don't care so much about physical description and things like that, but personality traits and details about the character's past are always good to have so that your character seems as realistic as possible.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    whatever you think is ok about spending all that time on a profile, procrastinating in re one's writing never is, imo!
     
  15. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Down with the templates! I had to drop them after I discovered they helped me procrastinate far too much. And yes, I feel they put too many limits on a story if you really go comprehensive and stick with them. Maybe like tehuti said, they can help keep track of stuff.
     
  16. rakel
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    rakel New Member

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    I think writing character profiles instead of using a template is the way to go. I start with the basics (name, genealogy, home, appearance) and then move on to more complex things such as history, motivation and of course, personality. I'm still working on my profiles, so right now I only have the two main characters and their families, but there are still more characters I need to write (friends, nominal characters, townsfolk, etc).

    The nice thing about just writing a few paragraph's instead of a "survey" is that you can just include information when it becomes apparent to you. For example, when I first started writing about my characters, each one had just the basics, then when I started writing more about a character, I envisioned how that character was affecting another character. So, some of the information is woven throughout the different profiles that I will need to update to make sure it has flow... but it also makes the characters three dimensional.

    I also agree with what some of the other writers here have said: it helps to write a few scene's that you may perhaps omit or re-write later just to see how your characters interact with each other. I started writing the first chapter, but I may end up breaking it up into a few different chapters by filling out more with some details on the characters rather than "this happens, then this, then this" :p
     
  17. Mr Vampyre
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    Mr Vampyre Member

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    I hate templates too. I tried to do one once and I ended up bored. I make basic notes on any habits of either speech or action they have so that I don't forget, but that's about it.
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing I try to be careful about is dates--when did this person leave school, are they young enough to have parents living etc., because my novels (well, the two I have tried to write!) are detailed and have lots of characters in them.

    Otherwise, I have them thinking of songs which are way out of date, or having a holiday in a country which would have been plunged into civil war at the time... Of course, these types of things (songs they hum, places they have visited) shape their character, so I think they are important to get right.
     
  19. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    This project sounds like it's either entirely too big for the OP to take on (at least right now), OR their very masterpiece........... honestly, though? That last one might be a little optimistic.

    Oh yeah. Character templates. Too restricting, methinks.
     
  20. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I don't like templates either, it feels like its constraining me to one idea.
    And like stories characters evolved.
    You should allow that natural occurrence to flow instead of binding yourself to a template.
     

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