This week, as I was writing, I thought a lot about my characters. I’m currently writing the third book in my trilogy Saving Shenanigans. My concern, of course, is to stay true to those characters as they were in the first two books and to allow them to stumble and grow. How do I keep it real? How do I keep their behavior consistent with how the reader would expect them to act?
The answer is Character Sketches. Before I begin writing, I develop a character sketch of each character that I know is going to be in the book. On an Excel Spreadsheet I document the following:
Physical Description – All the way down to shoe size. It’s important to have a picture in your mind of what you want your character to look like.
Current Mental Status – How is my character feeling about him or herself at the beginning of the book – Do they like themselves as a person? Are they proud, happy, sad, depressed, murderous, etc.?
Goals – What are the goals for each character in the book: What are they after? Where do they want to end up? This helps determine whether they are a true antagonist, protagonist, sidekick, etc. Based on your story line, what do you want this character to strive for? What should each achieve?
Personality Traits – In this section, I would write down what my character’s hot buttons are, what makes them laugh, how driven are they to finish a small task; are they neat, sloppy, in-between? These are important things to know about your character as you progress through your story and reveal aspects of the character’s personality. If you reveal that he is pretty laid back in the beginning of the book and he’s placed in a stressful situation in a later chapter, you certainly wouldn’t want him to FREAK out. It would not be true to what the reader would expect. Try to think of all types of situations that your character would be confronted with in your story and how this particular character would react. Remain true to that.
Development – How do I want the characters to develop as the story evolves? Do they learn a hard life lesson? Do they become someone totally different than who they were before? Do they stay the same, resulting in the same boring lifestyle they have always had? You see where I’m going with this. What draws a reader into a character is how much they change or grow during the course of the book. Make sure your main character has some kind of change that will draw your reader in. Otherwise your characters will turn out flat and boring.
Those are the four main categories I use in my Character Sketch. These really help me as I think about how I want my characters to evolve, react to situations, and how I want them to dress and behave.
Books by Kelly Abell Cover Designs by Select-O-Grafix
Copyright 2014 by Kelly Abell
Love the idea of thinking through the character’s “hot buttons.” Too often characters react in ways that seem inconsistent, and while people do have strong reactions under stress, it can be jarring to the reader if the reaction is wholly inconsistent with their previous characterization.
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