PART I. PHYSICAL
Date of Birth/Age
Peculiar Physical Traits
What type of clothes/shoes/accessories does he/she wear?
Any peculiar tastes in clothes/shoes/accessories?
Views on Money/Spending Habits
Religious Beliefs/Strength of Beliefs
What is his/her usual disposition?
How does he/she feel about his/her appearance?
Type of car
Most important possession
What is a normal day like for this character?
PART III. RELATIONSHIPS
Who does he/she live with?
Who does he/she spend the most time with?
Father/Relationship with him/Occupation
Mother/Relationship with her/Occupation
Other Important Friends
Feelings toward animals
How does he/she view his family?
How does he/she view his friends?
How does he/she view his boss/co-workers/employees?
How does his family view him?
How does his friends view him?
How does his boss/co-workers/employees view him?
Who is his hero?
(c) copyright 2000, Inspiration for Writers, www.InspirationForWriters.com/tip8.html
Full name - a character's name is very important. Surely, different types of people come to mind when we hear the names "Bubba" and "Thurmond Elton Radclift, III." Therefore, we must carefully consider both the first and last names of our character, as well as his or her nickname. A good quality Baby Names (with meanings, preferably) book is a great addition to your reference library. Consider the character's age, ethnic background and social status in naming your character. The telephone directory can help to find last names; there are also websites and books that list surnames by ethnic origin.
Besides the character's official name, we also need to know what he is called (and, perhaps, what he prefers to be called).
Date of Birth/Age - we should carefully consider assigning our character a birthday. Even though I am not a follower of astrology, I check my character's sun and moon signs, as this helps in fleshing out the character. I also check for important historical occurrences on both the day and during the character's developing years of life (any of us who know people who lived through the Great Depression know that they have been affected by that).
Address - this can be as detailed or as vague as you wish, but it should answer a few questions: does the character live in a large city, the suburbs, a small town or deep in the country? Does he/she live in the United States or elsewhere? If in the States, which region? What is the economics of the neighborhood/area/region?
Height - this doesn't need to be specific. "Tall" or "average" is fine unless it is a defining characteristic of the character.
Weight/Body Build - again, we don't really need to know a character's exact weight, only if he or she is stocky, slender or "had a figure that . . ."
Hair - keep in mind the character's ethnic background in assigning hair and eye color. Of course, you do not always have assign typical coloring to your characters, but if you don't, you'll need to explain. You may also want to mention the length of the character's hair, the style, and the type (curly, wavy, straight).
Eyes - Besides the color of the character's eyes, also include the shape, length of ashes, shape of brows and anything else peculiar to this character. This is a good place to be creative in listing the eye color. Instead of "brown," try "copper" or "chocolate." Instead of blue, be specific: sapphire, aquamarine or crystal blue.
Peculiar Physical Traits - list any peculiarities of
your character's appearance here. Does his left eye twitch when
he lies? Does he chew his lip when apprehensive? Does he smoke?
What does he smoke? What brand? How often? If he wears eyeglasses,
what do they look like? Does he have any moles, scars or birthmarks?
Health - does your character have any health problems or weaknesses? Does he/she walk with a limp, have a plastic jaw, suffer from migraines? Arthritis? How is his/her blood pressure? Is he a walking heart attack, or does she run five miles every morning before dawn? How does he feel about his health? Is she a hypochondriac? Or has she never been to a doctor in her life?
Smell - everyone has a smell. It can be the clean smell of deodorant soap, the strong smell of a specific perfume or aftershave, the musty smell of old age, the tell-tale smell of stale beer. Of course, a character's smell can change from scene to scene, but try to imagine what he/she typically smells like on an average day.
Voice - does he have a deep, resonant voice? Does she
have a throaty voice or a squeaky voice? Does his voice crack?
Does she usually shout or whisper? Can he carry a tune? Is his
tone pleasant or grating? Does she speak with perfect grammar
or slur her words? Does he insert an expletive between every
second word? Which one or ones? Does he have a distinguishing
laugh? Does he talk rapidly or slowly?
Usual Walking Style - Does he limp? Is he always in a hurry and runs everywhere he goes? Does she skip? Wiggle?
Mannerisms - What else distinguishes this character from everyone else? Does he greet people with a hug? Do his hands move when he talks? Does he snap his fingers regularly? Does he shrug his shoulders? Does he slouch? Have military posture?
What type of clothes/shoes/accessories does he/she wear? Does he have a favorite flannel shirt he wears every Saturday? Does she apply makeup before breakfast? Is his dress impeccable or gaudy? Trendy? Casual? Classic? Expensive? Second-hand? Matching? Scuffed?
Any peculiar tastes in clothes/shoes/accessories? What is his favorite article of clothing?
Eating habits/mannerisms/tastes - Does he slurp? Burp? Gulp? Eat on the run? Prefer steak or hamburger? Sushi or spaghetti? Eating out (and where) or at home? Big meals or small? Is he polite or piggish?
Personality Components are those emotional and psychological attributes characters may possess. Feel free to print the following list and copy it for each character. Either circle the components that apply to this character or use the list to select components to be added at the end of the character chart. Each character should possess several attributes in order to be well-rounded.
Want more great tips and techniques? Want an expanded character trait worksheet, as well as plot and scene worksheets? Our Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available for immediate download. Expanded tips, more topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and much more--check it out!
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(c) copyright 2001 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. These pages may be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at Sandy@InspirationForWriters.com for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.