23 June 2013

How Sketchy is Your Character?

There are some things to consider when dealing with characters. Much as we writers hate dealing with negative reviews, some of them will contain useful information. The character of course will dictate a lot of how someone feels about the story they read. So we need to understand our character as best we can.

To learn about the character, many books and blogs offer many techniques, many ideas for what to do.

A few examples I’ve found: The character interview, the character back story, and the character information sheet. All of these are examples of character sketches. They all give details to the writer about the character without actually putting it all into the story.

Each technique offers a different perspective to the character, just as each name implies.

The character interview is supposed to be exactly as it sounds. You’re seated with the character and asking them questions to learn about them. These can be as simple as “What’s your name?” to as complex as “A gun is pointed at you and your love interest, while a bomb ticks time away. Tell me how’d you react.”

The character back story is literally writing the story of the character up until you reach the story you’re going to write. It is an extensive writing project, sometimes spanning five to ten times the length of the final work. I actually knew a writer who wrote three 20-page back stories, one for each character, for characters of a simple 2000 word short story. It was how this writer worked, so I couldn’t fault them for the time invested in the work they created.

The character information sheet is something that comes from the realm of the gamer, though I’m sure it comes from a lot farther back than that. Modern sheets hold blocks on information, sorted by category. Basics like name, age, gender, and unchanging physical characteristics comprise one block. Information about clothing choice, political orientation, or other shifting details might go into the next block. Depending on the sheet chosen, these can be anywhere from one to fifteen pages of details.

Personally, I use the character sheet style, because I started my writing from the world of Dungeons and Dragons™. My sheet is a custom creation, to give me the access to the best details of what I feel need to exist in the story. And like my writing and my world view, it keeps being modified to better gather the details I want to present.

Nothing says you have to follow the same procedure for each story. What worked for story one might not work for story two. As I illustrated above, this sketching doesn’t necessarily have to appear in the final work either.

This comes to a point where I have to say – Do what works best for your technique.


Today's post was inspired by the topic “Character Sketches” as part of the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com/. This ongoing tour allows you, the reader, travel around the world from author's blog to author's blog.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s posting over at: http://suesantore.com/

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour: http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com

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