Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writing Craft: Character Development Chart

One of my favorite writing activities is creating characters. 

A skilled writer will take time before writing to develop their characters. You must learn as much as possible about them.  When you know your characters well, you will have a better idea of :
  • what they will say
  • how they will react to a situation
  • what they are likely to do.
When I first started writing, I though developing a character simply meant describing what he looked like. Good characterization goes far beyond that.  To start with, I take the following list and paste it onto a sheet for each character. Then I fill out the form for each character in my story.

Character name:
Birth date/ place:
Character role:
Eye color:
Hair color/style:
Skin tone:
Style of dress:
Characteristics/ mannerisms:
Personality traits:
Internal conflicts:
External conflicts:
Miscellaneous notes:

The more information you can fill out, the better you know your character.

Let’s take a look at a few items on the list:
·       Characteristics/ mannerisms:
o      Does he have a tic or gesture?
o      Is he extremely neat and tidy? Super sloppy?
·       Personality traits:
o      What kind of funny little quirks does he have?
o      Is he quiet or talkative?
o      Brave or shy and retiring?
o      Bold or outspoken?
o      Confident or insecure?
·       Background:
o      This is where you talk about his family.
o      Rich family or poor family?
o      Professional background or farming family?
·       Internal conflicts:
o      Everyone has issues and problems, this is where you decide what your character’s issues are.
o      Maybe he can’t stand his older brother, but has to put up with him.
o      Could he be afraid of heights? Of spiders?
o      Maybe he has an aversion to germs.
o      Is there something he knows he should be doing, but hates doing?
·       External conflicts:
o      These are more obvious.  You can see him acting them out publiclly.
o      Perhaps he acts like a bully in school, but is secretly afraid.
o      Maybe
·       Occupation/education:
o      Educated or illiterate, or somewhere in between?
o      Private boarding school or public school?
o      Home schooled?
o      College educated? What field of study?
·       Miscellaneous notes:
o      Anything else you can think about your character…
o      What is a secret thing in his wallet that no one knows about?
o      Is there someone he secretly loves?
o      Does he have any hobbies?
o      What is his favorite book? Movie? Music? 

Don’t worry about filling in every single thing. 
Just get started.  As your story progresses, you will learn more about your character. 

And don’t worry about trying to put every thing you’ve written on your profile in the story.  That may not be necessary unless it helps move the story along.  Just knowing your character well will make him more believable, more realistic, and more convincing to your readers.

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