Character Sheets

I am the first to admit that I am obsessive and neurotic when it comes to certain things. If I don’t absolutely love a name I have chosen for a character, I can’t form any real interest in the actual character. I am always fiddling with my bio summaries and various profiles to try and find a new way to improve upon them. Just like I am always moving my futon or side table to some other spot in my living room, the widgets on my blogs are in a constant state of being shuffled to and fro.

Keeping all this in mind, I am equally obsessed with making character sheets for my characters. I wanted a way to ensure I knew every tiny detail about the important people, and when I needed to go back and remember what eye color that one guy back in chapter three had, well wouldn’t you know, there’s a handy-dandy sheet with his information on it. It was also important to make sure all this was easily contained on one page, because I wanted to be able to alphabetize the characters by name in the three-ring binder notebook I have that contains all information for ELVEN SOUL (which has been printed off from my laptop, so really the notebook is a back-up).

This got me to thinking. Do you other writerly folks enjoy making character sheets for your characters? What about your locations? Here’s a PDF of the character sheet I’ve put together. I specialize in high fantasy, so this particular character sheet may not be as useful to someone that, say, writes contemporary romance (unless your characters tend to carry around weapons and worship strange gods). Feel free to print it off and use it yourself though, as well as share your own if you have any!

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6 Comments

  1. I probably ought to, but I really don’t. For the most part, I sit down and start writing. Whatever it turns out to be is what it turns out to be. I think it would be helpful sometimes, but it seems I am subconsciously doing all of that anyway.

  2. Wow, you are so very organized.

    I did write character bios before starting my current WIP. My creative process tends to be very messy though. My writing is sloppy, I scribble in margins, I ignore lines. I think I probably do that to get my creative mind working. However, end product is that it’s a mess and hard to refer back to. I also found as I was writing my WIP that it frustrated me when those nuanced details on the sheets didn’t make it into the story. I feel like the reader must know the character as I know them or it’s a bit of a waste. I’m probably just being a control freak.

  3. @Jack: I used to do that, but after never really managing to make it to a finished product I decided to switch things up and keep better documentation. I don’t believe there’s any real “right” way though, so your way seems just as fine! Whatever works, works, right?

    @Jessica: Oh dear lawd. Don’t even let this give you the impression that I am in any way organized. I’m somewhere in between organized and ridunkulously sloppy. I’m just hopelessly obsessed with making things “pretty”, and character sheets are a part of that. I completely understand the frustration of not managing to work in the tiny details of a character into the story. I have an old story I never completed where I was absolutely in love with the main character, but after by about the third chapter I realized that I had somehow made her completely unlikeable. It was very discouraging, and the main reason I shelved the story for a later date. I just couldn’t fully figure out how to make her likeable when she had flaws that made it easy to hate her.

  4. I strongly agree with your use of character sheets.

    I’ve eschewed almost all forms of paper copy for my writing, currently I use a private “fact wiki” format that I can browse with summaries of character detail, place detail and specific item/object detail – all hyperlinked together and _somewhat_ organized. This ‘wiki’ also has my plot summary and chapter outline in it.

    When I add some new characteristic to a character on the fly, I go back and make sure it’s consistent with my previous understanding of the character. When characters return to a place, I consult my place detail description.

    I’m writing science fiction, so I’ve recently started making small site layout diagrams of specific places where action is occurring so that I can convincingly describe location action, again, all info goes into the ‘wiki’. Maintenance is a bit of a headache, but it’s easy to find something in the wiki using a search function and I think consistency has really benefited.

  5. I love character sheets. I actually make specific ones for each novel, (or world as the case may be) that way I can have sections for traits or other information that is unique to the setting. I like having reams of background for everything, from places to characters to even minor ones. I always figured this was the RPG gamer in me. Eheh.

  6. @Djaii: That is an awesome idea I had never considered. I’ve seen wiki’s used so many times in the past that I am amazed I never throught to try and use one for my novel. That seems like an excellent way to privately document all information online. I’m a firm believer in having as many back-ups as possible, which is why I like to keep stuff stored on my laptop, in paper form in my notebook, and now quite possibly a wiki. Glad you commented!

    @evafortuna: I absolutely agree! I have a magic section in my character sheet because magic (while not common) exists in that world, but there have been other settings for other stories I’ve worked on where magic didn’t exist at all. So obviously that’d be a pretty useless field to have. I totally feel you on the RPG gamer bit. I think that definitely does tend to influence you. (For example, I have tabletop character sheets for my characters too, with dots assigned to their attributes like Strength and Agility.)

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