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  • Patricia Hollett

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Character Development

Last week I talked about planning your manuscript right from the beginning. During the Dark Fantasy Writing course taught by Kelley Armstrong, she handed out a form to develop our character profiles.

I took the one she gave us, and revised it. I added lines for information that I needed to know about my characters so its a combination form, partly her ideas and some of my own. So its a full profile for my main characters, and I can when I write about them, I know everything I need to know to develop their personalities in my story.

Then I did another form for secondary characters…you know the people that come and go in your story, but you don’t need to know everything about them. You may need to know a little, but not a full profile.

Doing these has helped me understand my characters so much better. I thought I knew them well enough to write them into my story, but readers need to identify with them, and the writer needs to know them as well as he/she can possibly know anyone.

I know my characters so well that they’re like familiar friends or family members. I don’t know all their intimate secrets yet, but I know enough that I can write about them. They need to be just like real people and that’s what the reader will sense while they read the story. Identifying with your main characters will draw your reader in. If you don’t know them that well, then your reader won’t either.

This is another stage of planning, which I can’t stress enough as being an important part of starting your story. Hope this helps!

Feel free to use mine or make your own if you find anything useful in the form. They’re underlined in blue below.

Keep writing, and enjoy your week! πŸ™‚

Character Profile Page-Primary

Character Profile Page-Secondary characters


17 Responses

  1. Yay, I love free stuff! Thanks, Pat!!

    I think it’s so important to use these kind of tools to develop characters – they’re just as important as the story, and we spend so much time on outlining that sometimes we forget we’re writing about the people of our plots, too:)

  2. Oh Anne! I’m happy to see you excited. I never thought of it as free stuff, but I guess you’re right. I’m just glad I could share it with fellow writers. πŸ™‚ thanks for your comments!

  3. Excellent post and so true! I’ve recently discovered Scrivener and love the character profile that they provide…the program also allows for pictures which really helps when I’m describing things my characters are doing.

  4. I’m just starting to use Scrivener Angie and can’t wait to get into it and totally use all aspects of it. Still too new at it to make any comments but I’ve heard fantastic things on top of the fact that Kelley uses it too. πŸ™‚

  5. Great post and I definitely agree on the benefit of character profiles. I use Liquid Story Binder with it’s feature to create character profiles as well and have found it really helpful throughout my writing process. πŸ™‚

  6. Characters very often don’t bloom for me, in personality and purpose, until the second draft – which is why I spend so much time in editing mode. Hmm… maybe I should try this reverse technique, instead of putting the cart before the horse. LOL!

    • I originally did cards for my characters. Now I’m fleshing them out completely before I write. It seems to make a huge difference Di. I hear you about the cart before the horse. I’m trying to do it the other way around this time as well. Hopefully it works better. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your comments.

  7. Thanks Pat, its always good to see how others deal with sorting their characters out. One thing I used to do to get an idea was write a bit about me as if I was a character and then write things about people I know, its a great way to develop a feel for first and secondary characters and also might help others develop it further.

    • That’s another idea Gareth. Although I’d have to be like Sybil to get all my characters personalities…haha! But, yeah taking qualities from others you know works well. I do that a lot too. It helps when you want to know them well. πŸ™‚

  8. I always think that the more character development a writer does prior to writing the story, the more realistic and believable the characters are because all the author has to do is place them in a situation, and a fully developed character will let you know what they’re going to do about it.

    • You’re right Emma. When I first started my manuscript, I knew my characters, but now I know them better after filling out details on them. I feel more comfortable placing them in the story and in situations and knowing what they will do and how they will approach things. Its made a huge difference. Thanks for your input. Well said. πŸ™‚

  9. Oh well said Emma! And excellent post Pat. I love your character sheets, I filled them out first (since i like real paper sometimes when i work) then transferred the info into Scriv. Helped a ton! I know I should do my secondary characters too, but alas, the pantzer in me has drawn a line, I’m a work in progress. πŸ˜€ lol!

  10. Could you explain “Psychological qualities & makeup”, and how it differs from “Character qualities”, please?

    • Hey Tez, nice to hear from you. And, this is what I perceive as the difference and why I need it for my characters. Not everyone will need everything in the character forms, but its there just in case.

      Psychological qualities & makeup-what has formed this character’s outlook on life, what has affected the character’s behaviour, his/her mentality, why he/she does what they do in the story. eg. my protag is native and in this section I would show that her grandfather and father have had a profound impact on her view of the world, her passion about nature, she still believes in grandmother earth as taught by the elders and that it must be preserved. She knows how cruel nature can be and yet she’s passionate about saving her lands from destruction. Her grandfather and father have taught her the old ways of the tribe and she believes all living things have a purpose. Although like I said, it might not apply to everyone’s stories, but does to my own and I developed the sheets for myself, although anyone can use whatever parts of them they wish or need, and some people won’t find use for all the lines because their stories are different.

      As for character qualities, I add a few important ones which are significant to the story and the character, eg. Smart, funny, athletic, trustworthy, loyal, silly, disrespectful, enthusiastic, etc. Basically, general qualities about a specific character so I know how to write them.

      There are some parts that some people won’t need, eg. religious background, or education or whatever, depending on their characters and story. Its meant to be an all-purpose character profile for me, and if anyone can take something from it, I’m happy to share.

      I hope that helped clarify, although I see your point that the two are so similar they can be interchanged, but I needed something in mine to show why and how the character is what he/she is today and why they act the way they do-hence the psychological qualities.

      Sorry about the length of this Tez but I couldn’t explain it in short form. Thanks for stopping by and obviously you checked out the form in detail since you had questions. Thanks for that! πŸ™‚

  11. Ah, thanks for all that. I was thinking about psychological stuff like addictions, or developmental disabilities, and how that would affect their way of thinking, but your First Nations example is a good one because it’s not a disorder πŸ™‚ Thanks for explaining everything πŸ™‚

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