1. sprirj

    sprirj Senior Member

    Feb 2, 2009
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    Brainstorming Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by sprirj, Mar 22, 2011.

    I'm half way through my novel, and for a first draft its pretty good. It needs a lot of polish though. As this is a new experience for me I jumped straight in, and my character sheets included just a print out of an actor who could play them in a film adapt. Their name and a brief para on what drives them.
    Now I feel I need to look at these parts more carefully as I am looking to tie up loose ends and aim for a finale. So my question would be, 'What goes on character sheet & what background stuff do you do to prepare for a novel?'

    Do we have any templates or useful links?

    :) Thanks in advance
  2. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    Have yet to really make a character sheet there are some useful threads here under word games, What would your MC do, Antagonists are people to and Character Development clinic.

    I do what you do an choose an actor to play the part, stalk them round youtube and make scrapbooks of clothes they might wear what they may look like. I talk to them etc
  3. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Character sheets encourage you to think within a fixed framework delimited by the questions you choose. In my opinion, that tends to lead to uninteresting, cookie-cutter characters.

    Also, a character sheet provides a snapshot of the character at one point in time, even if you include "history" questions. Real people are constantly changing in response to changes in their environment, and due to maturation. Reliance on a character sheet impedes the character's evolution.
  4. KillianRussell

    KillianRussell New Member

    Feb 23, 2011
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    Goggle the phrase 'What would my characters do? '... the book a treasure chest, the premise puts your character in situations...the writers needs to figure out how they would react............no matter how inapplicable the situations may seem, the end result is the ability to think as they would ....how character X relates and/or does not relate to character A,B & Z helps us avoid the forementioned cookie cutter characters that don't not egage readers...the book is so cool i bring to the beach with non readers and ask the questions ...the book is the sha-dizzle !
  5. Ellipse

    Ellipse Contributor Contributor

    Jun 8, 2010
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    I agree with Cogito. A character sheet is a limited view of a character at a given point. But since you already did them, it's time to think beyond the sheet.

    Start questioning your character sheets:

    1) What about <insert actor's name> resembles your MC? Is it the hair? Chin? Eyes? Facial structure? Voice? A picture or saying your MC looks like Brad Pitt doesn't do much for the reader.

    2) Start thinking more about your MC's history. What events shaped them into the person they are at the start of your story?

    There are just a couple of questions, but I'm certain you can think of many more. :)
  6. Gingerbiscuit

    Gingerbiscuit New Member

    Apr 11, 2010
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    Melton Mowbray in Merry old England
    I totally agree with what Cogito is saying here. In my opinion a character should be entirely organic and should develop naturally throughout the story. Personally I only use a character sheet for the basic facts about a person in the interests of continuity only. Developing a character on the fly you tend to find that you're discovering as much about the character as the reader is which leads to a really natural development.

    Also if you come into the story armed with an in-depth knowledge of your character it takes a lot of restraint not to drop an enormous info dump the first time the character walks into the room.

    That said, some people do prefer to have a structure when writing so if you really can't write without a character sheet my advice would be this: make it as in-depth as possible. What food do they like? What shoes do they wear? What did they want for their fifth birthday? What did they get for their fifth birthday? What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations? What allergies do they have? Yah yah yah yah EVERYTHING. That way you can draw on stuff as and when you need it, though it may take longer to write than the actual novel.
  7. tcol4417

    tcol4417 Member

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Sydney, AU
    If your character sheet for a given character is identical at the beginning of a story as it is at the end, you're doing it wrong.

    Character sheets are good for writing down incidental details you might want to remember in the future. Nothing that you want out of a character - development, growth and conflict - should be solely on the CS because the reader isn't going to see it anyway.

    Other than that, a CS only encourages writers to think inside the "box", because they feel that they don't need to stray beyond what they've already written down.

    A good CS is one that is written as you write the story and referenced occasionally if you feel like tying up some loose ends or pulling something out from their past. Everything important about a character should be in the story.
  8. Alvaro

    Alvaro New Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    A thing I tend to do is I have a one page synopsis of the character up to the point where the novel starts, so they can change as fits the story.

    I write it from the character's point of view. The character stands in front the mirror. They describe themselves and the way they feel when they look at themselves. They tell the story of their life in their own words.

    It works for me.
  9. cybrxkhan

    cybrxkhan New Member

    Jun 16, 2009
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    Character sheets are useful in getting some initial ideas about the character, but otherwise, I agree that they can be limiting if you rely only on them to make your character. I use them sometimes, because I'm the kind who likes to organize every little detail about everything, and I really need everything to be organized or else I can't go forward, but, again, the character sheet can be rather limiting if you start to rely on it too much.

    Lately, what I prefer to do is a more free-form kind of exercise, where I write a mini-bio of my character in a few paragraphs (1-5, I guess). Though it's still a bit limiting in that you only have exactly what you have written, it's still better than the character sheet because you aren't limited to certain categories or sets of information, and you can discuss whatever the heck you feel is important and relevant to your character. The things I think about when writing these mini-bios include what conflicts the character may experience throughout the story, the motives for the character's general behavior, the important relationships they have with other characters (and how these relationships evolve and why they are in the first place), and so on. Generally, this kind of thing allows me to think about the characters in a much more dynamic fashion than just the character sheet.

    On a last note, the character sheet might still be useful for keeping track of physical traits of the character, and thus it might help you to retain a consistent image of the character.

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