Elements of Craft

Character Trait Chart

and Personality Components

It can sometimes be helpful to make a Trait Chart for each character. This is especially helpful during the early stages of character development, before the character becomes as real to you as your mother. There are several charts of this sort available, some extremely detailed and some containing only facts and figures. I've tried to make one that includes the most important traits to help you visualize your character, both physically and emotionally.

To use this chart, print it out and make a copy for each of your characters. If you can't get it to print nicely, email me and ask me to send you a Word Document containing the Character Chart. Following this chart are explanations for Physical Characteristics, then a list of Personality Components.

 Inspiration for Writers

Character Chart

PART I. PHYSICAL

Full name

Date of Birth/Age

Address

Race/Ethnic Background/Nationality

Height

Weight/Body Build

Hair

Eyes

Peculiar Physical Traits
Glasses/Contacts
Smokes
Nervous Habits
Distinguishing Marks

Health

Smell

Voice

Usual Walking Style

Mannerisms

What type of clothes/shoes/accessories does he/she wear?

Any peculiar tastes in clothes/shoes/accessories?

Eating habits/mannerisms/tastes


PART II. GENERAL

Occupation/Social Class

Views on Money/Spending Habits

Education/Intelligence

Marital Status

Birth Order

Political Party/Views

Religious Beliefs/Strength of Beliefs

Sexual Orientation/Values

What is his/her usual disposition?
Optimist/Pessimist?
Introvert/Extrovert?
Confident/Self-conscious?

How does he/she feel about his/her appearance?

Type of car

Most important possession

Hobbies/Recreations/Sports

Talents

What is a normal day like for this character?

Greatest Fear

Major Goals
1.
2.
3.
4.

PART III. RELATIONSHIPS

Significant Other/Relationship

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

Siblings/Relationships

Children/Ages

Best Friend

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?

Other comments:

 

 

(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?
Glasses/Contacts
Smokes
Nervous Habits
Distinguishing Marks

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

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.

 
Absent-minded
Abrasive
Abusive
Accident-prone
Accommodating
Accomplished
Adaptable
Adventurous
Affectionate
Agnostic
Agreeable
Aggressive
Alone
Aloof
Ambitious
Amusing
Angry
Annoying
Antisocial
Anxious
Apathetic
Apologetic
Appreciative
Apprehensive
Approachable
Argumentative
Aristocratic
Arrogant
Articulate
Artistic
Assertive
Audacious
Authoritative
Belligerent
Bewildered
Bewitching
Boisterous
Bored
Bossy
Brave
Brazen
Calculating
Callous
Carefree
Careful
Charismatic
Charming
Chaste
Cheerful
Classy
Clumsy
Cocky
Compassionate
Compliant
Composed
Compulsive
Conceited
Condescending
Confused
Congenial
Confident
Conscientious
Conservative
Considerate
Consistent
Conventional
Content
Contrite
Controlling
Cooperative
Cowardly
Crafty
Cranky
Creative
Critical
Crude
Cruel
Cultured
Cunning
Curious
Cynical
Daffy
Dainty
Debonair
Deceitful
Decent
Delicate
Defiant
Despicable
Detached
Determined
Dignified
Direct
Disciplined
Disgusting
Dishonest
Disorganized
Distant
Distraught
Dogmatic
Domineering
Dowdy
Downtrodden
Dramatic
Dull
Dumb
Easy-going
Educated
Eccentric
Egocentric
Egotistic
Elusive
Embittered
Emotional
Empathetic
Energetic
Enigmatic
Enthusiastic
Excessive
Excitable
Exotic
Extravagant
Exuberant
Faithful
Fanatical
Fatalistic
Fearless
Feisty
Finicky
Flamboyant
Flexible
Flippant
Flirtatious
Flustered
Focused
Forgiving
Fragile
Frank
Friendly
Frigid
Frugal
Frustrated
Fun-loving
Gaudy
Gentle
Glamorous
Gloomy
Good-natured
Graceful
Gracious
Grandiose
Gregarious
Greedy
Grotesque
Grumpy
Haggard
Hateful
Heartbroken
Hesitant
Holy
Honest
Honorable
Hopeful
Hospitable
Humble
Hypocritical
Hysterical
Idiosyncratic
Ignorant
Imaginative
Immature
Immodest
Impatient
Impeccable
Impudent
Impulsive
Incoherent
Incompetent
Inconsiderate
Indecisive
Indifferent
Indiscreet
Inept
Infantile
Informed
Inhibited
Inhumane
Innocent
Insecure
Insensitive
Insouciant
Insulting
Intelligent
Intimidating
Intolerant
Introspective
Introverted
Inquisitive
Insightful
Intellectual
Intelligent
Intuitive
Inventive
Irresponsible
Irreverent
Irritable
Jealous
Judgmental
Kind
Knowledgeable
Lascivious
Lazy
Lethargic
Lewd
Liberal
Logical
Lonely
Loving
Macho
Maniacal
Manipulative
Masochistic
Materialistic
Mature
Mean
Melodramatic
Merciful
Messy
Meticulous
Miserly
Modest
Moody
Naïve
Nasty
Neurotic
Noble
Noisy
Nonchalant
Non-committing
Nostalgic
Obedient
Obnoxious
Obscene
Observant
Obsessive
Open-minded
Opinionated
Opportunistic
Optimistic
Organized
Ornery
Outgoing
Outspoken
Overbearing
Paranoid
Passionate
Passive
Patient
Perceptive
Persistent
Persuasive
Pert
Perverted
Pessimistic
Petty
Philanthropic
Pious
Plain
Polite
Pompous
Practical
Presumptuous
Pretentious
Prim
Private
Profane
Promiscuous
Prosaic
Proud
Psychopathic
Psychotic
Pushy
Quiet
Quirky
Rational
Rebellious
Reclusive
Reliable
Religious
Remorseful
Remote
Resentful
Reserved
Resilient
Respectful
Righteous
Romantic
Rowdy
Rude
Ruthless
Sadistic
Saintly
Sarcastic
Sassy
Savvy
Self-absorbed
Self-conscious
Self-effacing
Self-righteous
Selfish
Selfless
Senile
Sensitive
Sensual
Sentimental
Serene
Serious
Shallow
Sheepish
Shy
Silent
Silly
Simple
Sincere
Sleazy
Sloppy
Sluggish
Smart
Sneaky
Snobby
Soft-spoken
Spiritual
Spiteful
Squeamish
Stern
Stingy
Stoical
Straight-laced
Strict
Stubborn
Submissive
Subtle
Supportive
Surly
Suspicious
Sweet
Sympathetic
Tactful
Talkative
Telepathic
Temperamental
Tense
Tentative
Thoughtful
Thrifty
Timid
Tireless
Tolerant
Tough
Traitorous
Trivial
Trusting
Tyrannical
Unapproachable
Unassuming
Unclean
Uncommunicative
Unconventional
Uneasy
Uninhibited
Unmotivated
Unreasonable
Unscrupulous
Vain
Vengeful
Verbose
Vindictive
Virtuous
Vivacious
Vulgar
Vulnerable
Well-groomed
Wholesome
Wicked
Withdrawn
Worldly
Zany
Zealous

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!

  Why have we chosen the yellow rose as the symbol for Inspiration for Writers? The yellow rose symbolizes joy, friendship, and the promise of a new beginning. Some sources cite the meaning of the yellow rose as "I Care." We believe that writing should bring joy. We believe the editing relationship must be friendly and should develop into a partnership and a friendship. We believe that through editing, your work takes on the promise of a new beginning-perhaps even a new career. And we take more than just pride in our work. We care that our editing makes your work the best it possibly can be. Check out what we can do for you.

(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.

Questions? Comments? Email us at:

editor@InspirationForWriters.com

If no one responds to your question or comment within 48 hours, please email again.

Custom Graphics by: