Fourteen pages of character notes. Wow. I don’t know how that happened but I’m glad it did.
I always try to give as much depth and detail to my characters as I can. I believe that the more I invest in a character, the more attached I will become and that attachment is what makes that character seem more real (that’s a lot of mores). Its great because my characters go from being an idea to becoming like a close, life-long friend (until you know…that scene where they get silenced by the pen aka they die).
It’s a fun process honestly, even though I’ll admit it takes time. Despite the time it takes to do it is a lot more fun than just naming a character and throwing them into your story. A name is only a fraction of a person, there are many other things that make us who we are.
A lot of the time I like to draw pictures of my characters: the facial expressions they might make in different scenario’s, what clothing they might wear, what their hair looks like, their height, the colour of their eyes.
It can be really helpful, but of course I know that not everyone likes to draw. What I used to do on my drawings was create a list beside my character. The list usually looked like…
- Name: Bob Robert Bobbinlee
- Age: 22
- Likes: cows, cats, cookies and cake
- Dislikes: anything that doesn’t start with the letter C (is for cookie)
- Family: Mama Bobbetta, Father Bobert, Juliettabobo Boblee, Bobafett
- Friends: Cookie Monster, Elmo, Pinkie Pie and Ash Ketchum (yes I was talking to my 4 year old niece recently…any watching Pokémon)
What I’ve begun doing now is creating this same list in a table on Microsoft word.
Its pretty easy to do, you just go to insert, then click table…etc.
So now I keep my images and my charts separate, giving me more room to add written details about my characters. This is especially helpful when I have side characters. Usually I don’t know the personality of a side character. Some times I might just have some character who until named is called “Book Store Clerk.” The first thing I like to do is to draw this character out (or imagine what they might look like), then I take that image and I create a detailed character chart, similar to the list above but in chart form…and because it isn’t on the same page as my drawing I can add even more detail.
Using the same example from above:
|Name||Bob Robert Bobbinlee|
Special Features: Tattoo of the letter C
|Personality||Hot-headed, sweet-tooth, perfectionist, crazy about cats and cows, creative, incredible cook|
Siblings: Juliettabobo, Boblee and Bobafett
|Friends||Cookie Monster, Elmo, Pinkie Pie and Ash Ketchum
|Partner (or partners for them playa’s)||Cloe Ver|
|Pet||Cactus the Cat and Carver the Cow|
|Hobbies||Reading, eating and baking cookies and cake, chillin’ like a villain with his squad…I mean crew.
|Occupation/Education||Book Store Clerk
|Fears||The letter Z…because he isn’t sure if it should be Zed or Zee even though he’s Canadian. He just…doesn’t know.
|Dreams||Publish a Children’s Cook Book|
See, its that simple, and even though some of these details won’t end up being in you story, they are details that are significant to who your character really is. Once you know this much about your character they begin to take on a life of their own, and as an author I have to say that is one of my favourite things that happen while I’m writing.
Whether you like to draw or not, this is a method that I highly recommend. It’s easy to set up and once you get going it can be a lot of fun. Before you know it you’ve got fourteen pages of characters and this amazingly long chart!
Also, if you are a tech-savvy person you can even scan a drawing of your character and place the image into the appearance box on the table. I’ve never done this but I’m definitely going to give it a try. The idea just came to mind.
I hope that this post was helpful!
If you’ve never tried to do this sort of detailing with your characters I highly recommend it. Its both fun and rewarding.
If you have any different ways of detailing and developing characters (or you’ve written a post with another writing tip) feel free to share in the comment section. I’m sure, myself and many people would appreciate it!
Happy writing everyone!