Family & Upbringing
This includes place of birth, parents and siblings, quality of home life, general family status (wealth, position of power, reputation), and family jobs (is there a family business?). More is below under “Relationships”.
How far did they get and what did they study? What kind of student (honor roll, flunking stuff, misfit, class clown, skipping classes, a drop out)? Did they continue beyond mandatory schooling (like college) and why? Did they know what they wanted or stumble into it? Are they in debt from school?
What does he speak, read, write, and understand? At what skill level does he have his native language and others? What does he think of it when someone speaks another language around him (irritated?)?
Skills & Abilities
Is he good at anything and does that skill have value, or is it useless? How long has he been good at it? How did he learn (natural or taught)? Does he know he’s good at it? Is he glad or wish he wasn’t? Did it make people jealous? If so, how did he deal with that?
What does he do or hope to do? Is he doing something other than what he wants? How did he end up doing this? Is he happy, indifferent, or upset about it? How well does he do it? Is there a difference between how well he thinks he does and others think?
List anything special, unique, or unusual here, including things like disabilities or rare talents and abilities.
Does he know his limits? How did/will he find out? What are they?
Does he have friends? How many? For how long? Do they truly know him or is he a loner despite the appearance of having friends? Is there anything they don’t know? Anything he wishes they knew or didn’t know? Can he count on them? Has he ever turned to them in despair and if so, how did they react? Is he too damaged/hurt to trust anyone?
Does he create enemies? Why? Do some people hate him and it’s not his fault (jealousy, for example)? Has he defeated any enemies? Does he fear them? Do they fear him? Will he ultimately destroy them or they him? What is his fate on this?
Is he married? Divorced? Living with someone? At what age did he lose his virginity? Has he experienced sexual trauma (rape, molestation) as victim or perpetrator, and how has this affected him? Is he promiscuous? Has he ever used a prostitute (would he?)? What is his reputation? Is he a great/bad/selfish lover? Does he break hearts or get his broken? Does he typically end it or get dumped?
Does he have any children? Does he know that? How old? Gender? Problems with them? Does he get along with them and their other parent and family?
What impact have they had on him? How many parents and siblings? Alive or dead?
Relations with the Species
If there are other species, how does he get along with them?
Relations with Armed Forces
Do you knights, local guards, or other armed forces? If so, does admire them or dislike them? Has he had run-ins with any? Has he been in jail? A wanted man?
Part 3 focuses more on building a fantasy character, though it may apply to anyone who goes on “adventures”.
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, […]
4 Unconventional Tools to Fix Common Creative Writing Problems by Guest Blogger Ethan Miller Once upon a time, there lived a writer who churned bestsellers after bestsellers without breaking a sweat. Words flowed out of him with such ridiculous ease that he was rumored to be unaware of the phrase ‘writer’s block’. And his name […]
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 […]