C is for Character (Development)


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As a researcher and perpetual student, some of the best tips I have learned about character development is to make a chart (for me that is Excel). We have all heard about making our characters three dimensional. What does that mean? I believe this means taking in all three of the “dimensions” of a person and understanding exactly what makes them tick. That is what makes them come alive to our readers, makes them laugh, cringe in terror or brings them to tears. A chart is a great reference point to go back to as you are writing for you to keep the dates in order, the color of that person’s hair or eyes, his mannerisms. If Character A was this age when . . . , then Character B had to be ____ age. Create three sections to your spreadsheet for each character. You will need to go deeper in depth with your protagonists and antagonists, but even the secondary characters will benefit from referencing a chart. For example, I did not realize that I had all the men in one story with the same color eyes and hair until I made my chart. Oops. Needed to change that up. Was this helpful?

Physiology

Sociology

Psychology

Sex

Class (upper etc.)

Moral standards

Date of Birth

Occupation

Ambitions, Premise

Age at beginning

Education

Disappointments

Age at end

Home life

Temperament

Weight

Religion

Complexes

Hair color

Nationality

Phobias

Skin color

Place in community

Talents


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14 thoughts on “C is for Character (Development)

  1. I love your idea. I use a similar table for keeping track of my characters’ ages across the events of my stories, but I like the extra dimensions you have added. I’m very character-centric and enjoy complex, realistic characters. (I also wrote on Character for A to Z.) Looking forward forward to more of your posts! http://www.cefrancies.com

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    • Thanks. I am huge on lists and spreadsheets. I must rely on this stuff because my memory is terrible. Thanks for following. I will check out your “character” post.

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  2. Golly, I WISH I could work like this. Structure is lovely. But when it comes to my fiction I can’t work like this. I have no idea why. The pantser in me doesn’t allow it. I usually just throw a character in a situation and see how he/she reacts. Only after they’ve been tossed and turned in a tough situation do I figure out who they are and THEN I can fill in this chart. I have no idea, though where they are going to take me. I just discovered my main male character likes to listen to music on his stereo very LOUDLY and buck naked. I didn’t think he would EVER do that, but he told me he does it all the time when he’s stressed. Go figure. I also discovered he was illegitimate. Imagine my shock when I discovered his father wasn’t his father after all. NOT how I started writing him. Oh well.

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  3. I think for characterisation I’m an in-betweener, not plotter or pantser. I don’t structure into tables, but do some type of sketch of these types of things as I go. Firstly throwing a character into the scene, then doubling back to document what I found out. Liking your posts.

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  4. I like the chart idea you came up with. Mine is more of a very long questionaire. It embodies everything you have in your chart. What I have done is to type all the questions I ask of all characters (which is very lengthy) and then I change the font size to where everything will fit into two columns on one page. Then I take out my hand-dandy college rulled binder paper with my PhD mechanical .7mm lead pencil and I start to answer the questions. For obvious reason, the main (or primary) characters have all the questions answered. I typically will end up with around five binder pages full of info. With my secondary characters, it might be as long or they are. With minor characters they are typically the front side of a binder page long. What I find as I am created these character sheets are some great story ideas that add more depth to my story. I love them. I also am a plotter through and through, but this is what helps me to be the best writer I can be.

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  5. Does anyone else find quirky irony in the fact that, in order to make your character three-dimensional, you have to do it on a two-dimensional spreadsheet? Just me? Ok then. 😉

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