Starting a new writing project is always fun. Or at least I think it’s fun. Being a fiction writer, I love the process of figuring out which story will be next. Where will it take place, what will the death stakes be, who will be the star and who will be the supporting cast. How will it start and how will it end. The list goes on and on. But out of all the different aspects of getting ready to pen that opening paragraph, creating character sketches is my favorite.
I work with the writing program Scrivener. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I can’t recommend it enough. It has been a huge help to me as far as organization of manuscripts and (especially) for formatting/publishing purposes. It has so many functions and uses that I haven’t figured them all out yet, but the ones I have figured out, I really love. One of my favorite tools in Scrivener is the character sketches section.
Now, if you don’t have or don’t use Scrivener, you can do this without it. Scrivener just gives you a ready-made template to do it with, and they’re right there on your manuscript screen along with your notes and chapters, so it’s perfect for quick reference.
The template gives you a few basic sections to fill out for each character: name, role in the story, occupation, physical description, background, habits/mannerisms, personality, internal conflicts and external conflicts. There’s also a section for extra notes and you can upload a picture, if you want. I find this helpful because for my main characters I like to find a face to represent them. Sometimes it’s someone famous, or someone I know. Sometimes it’s just an image from Google. No matter which I choose, it helps to keep that face in my mind while I’m writing.
Every character in your story should be unique from your other characters (duh, right?). I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but sometimes that’s harder than it sounds. Every character should sound different when they speak. They should have different habits and mannerisms. They should react differently to situations.
Someone told me once that if you take out all the tag lines from your dialogue, you should still be able to tell who is speaking.
Character sketches help with that goal. For me, going through and writing down all the details (from the list above) about each person in the book (main characters) has been a great way for me to flesh out who they are. Each character’s background and personality is what will determine how they will react to any given situation. Their internal and external conflicts are what drives the story forward, and their habits/mannerisms helps to set them apart from other characters in the book.
No matter how you work your process when you prepare for a new project, gathering your characters and figuring out each one’s role is important. Great characters make for great books, and who doesn’t love a great book? At the end of the day, it’s the characters we fall in love with (or hate). It’s the characters we dream about and wish happiness for. It’s the characters we relate too, and who become our friends. It’s the characters we remember, long after we turn the last page of the book.
Check out The Flames of Guilt HERE! It’s available in paperback or on Kindle.
Check out Horns & Halos: Against The Giant HERE! It’s available in paperback, Kindle, or it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
Also check out the FREE Horns & Halos short story:
Boy-Eating Plants HERE.