Regardless of your genre, authors, screenwriters, and playwrights have much to think about when creating a character. One tool to help is a kind of fill-in-the-blanks template you can use for each one. I’ve developed a rather extensive one over the years and share it here. It can be overkill, so don’t feel the need to completely fill it out – you may never get around to writing a story if you do it all for every character!
This is a multi-part blog, with this one focusing on an overview. Part 2 will discuss personal life, relationships, adventuring, equipment, combat, and the supernatural. Since I’m a fantasy author, some of this applies to my genre but may not to yours. Part 3 includes a downloadable template (for Word or as a PDF).
Role in the Story
What purpose does this character serve for your story and in relation to your main character? If a main character, more of this template should be filled out. Minor characters need less.
Describe this character in 2-3 sentences. You should have this ready in case someone asks and for your own benefit.
Include any scars, tattoos, or distinguishing marks, plus body type, size, and the usual height/weight and coloring info. What impression do they create? How do they feel about their appearance? Do they let themselves go or stay fit and tidy? Have any vices impacted their appearance? How old are they, and how old do they feel/look/wish they were? Does he have any injuries that still affect him?
|Height||Height in feet or just tall, medium, short|
|Weight||A number or just fitness level|
|Hair||Include length with color|
Intelligence and Wisdom
How smart/dumb is he and about what? Book smarts vs. real world smarts? People smart? Emotionally smart?
Is he friendly, shy, bold, cocky, laid back, uptight, nervous, quiet until you know him?
Passions, Vices, Ideas, Fears, & Torments
What ideas drive him? What vices does he have? What is he passionate about? What torments or haunts him (any demons?)? What is he afraid of and what is the greatest fear (does he know it?)?
Desires, Goals, and Intentions
Who/what does he want to be with, achieve, or avoid and why? Is he compassionate, self-absorbed, indifferent?
What He Thinks of Himself
How self-aware is he? For all the attributes you wrote above, does he know these things or not? Is he an unreliable narrator if you’re writing in first person?
What Others Think of Him
This means people who know him.
This means people who do not know him. Reputation is an opinion about a stranger.
Gods, Religion, and Beliefs
What religion does he follow and does he actually believe in it or just go through the motions? Is he a sinner? Holier-than-thou? Tolerant or intolerant? Is he an atheist? Do religions please him or drive him nuts? Does he act in accordance with his beliefs or is he a hypocrite? Does he know this on some level?
What does he actually believe? Is he right/wrong?
Has he ever changed what he believes or religions? Why?
Does he know his strengths? What are they? Do people resent them or appreciate them? Does he resent or appreciate that?
Does he know his weaknesses, including vices? What are they? Do people know about them? Is he scorned or mocked for them? Do others take advantage? Does he try to hide them to prevent them or from shame? How much control over his life do they have? Have they ever destroyed him? Will they? Does he triumph or succumb? What is his fate? Will he be a cautionary tale?
There’s a lot of advice on how to write a professional author bio, and here’s mine: don’t try to be funny or clever. It seldom works. It can also make you look juvenile, narcissistic, and unprofessional. Here are some examples of bad lines extracted from actual bios (names withheld very much on purpose). Please note that I […]
Whether a musician, author, or other artist, we’ve all received feedback on our work. Obtaining meaningful feedback is an art all its own. Sometimes we have to work at it, deciphering comments to figure out what someone means, so I’ve written some observations about this, with examples. Defining Helpful Feedback First we should define what […]
This is part two of the blog about evaluating feedback on your writing or other artistic pursuits. Read part 1 here. Biased Feedback A person giving negative feedback can be biased in some way. We can sometimes tell from their words. I have some examples here: A CD reviewer once slammed my instrumental guitar CD, […]
When I decided to start self-publishing, people began asking me if I can get my book in stores, to which I’ve said no, not really. They almost always ask in amazement, “Don’t you want to see your novel in book stores?” I usually shrug and say no and ask why they think it’s so important, […]
Like most authors, I’ve submitted books to agents and either gotten no response or the form rejection letter. Well, let me be specific – I’ve sent a query letter, one page summary, and anywhere from 5 pages to 3 chapters as per each agent’s instructions. I jokingly tell myself that my books have never been […]
Regardless of your genre, authors, screenwriters, and playwrights have much to think about when creating a character. One tool to help is a kind of fill-in-the-blanks template you can use for each one. I’ve developed a rather extensive one over the years and share it here. It can be overkill, so don’t feel the need […]
This is the second in a series on creating fictional characters. Part 1 covered an overview. You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF. Personal Life General History Family & Upbringing This includes place of birth, parents and siblings, quality of home life, general family status (wealth, position of power, […]
If you’re creating a character for fantasy or another genre where they go adventuring, this part of the template may help you. You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF or read Part 1 and Part 2 online As Adventurer Does he seek “adventure” or go on missions? History How […]
I watch a lot of SciFi (and when available, fantasy) on TV and in movies. All too often, death means nothing. A major character can be killed off and I just shrug, knowing they’ll be back, sometimes before the episode is over. Then they show another character mourning this and I just wonder why. Like […]
Most authors have “writer’s block” at some point, but I suspect we’re often suffering from something I call “idea block”. The definition of writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.” But I think that raises two separate issues: Not knowing what you […]