This month on Instagram, I’m focusing on character. It is interesting when I am looking at revising my draft to think that I need to rework my characters. Shouldn’t they already be “done” and good to go? Not really. I wrote characters in draft one who did and said what they needed or wanted, but in revising, I need to hunker down on what makes these characters real, relatable, unique, not just what I need them to do or what pops into my head for them to say or do.
So, I created a character profile workbook (click the link <– to download) that I can use to hone each character until I have a better understanding of them and can transform them in my manuscript. Once I was done, I wanted to make sure that if anyone, whether in the creation stage or revision stage, had this same issue, that I shared my work with them in the hope that it helps.
(Also, if you already have your cast of characters, check out the Character Creation Guide that I created that can help you to see if they overlap too much or are unique enough when they all show up on the page.)
First things first, I wanted to start with the basics. This is very similar to a portfolio or character profile that you can find just about anywhere, but I made sure to include inspirational images that helped me to draft my character because I’m a visual person.
Here’s my filled out worksheet for my main character, Gia. I definitely recommend having a Character Basics page for every one of your characters that are named and important to the story. This means your main character, sidekick, mentor, antagonist, healer, teacher, etc. Basically, anyone who is in the book for more than just a few moments/pages.
Next, I recommend looking at your main cast and diving a little bit deeper with the Character Advanced page. This page focuses on the little things that can be important like relationships to other characters, and notes about things that make each character unique, like speech patterns and quirks.Then, if you really need to dig deeper into a character, I’d start looking at these “Other” pages and choose the ones that represent what it is that you need to know about a character that may not be fleshed out enough in the previous two pages.
For the Societal Roles page, I wanted to dig deeper into how my MC functions in different parts of the world. For example, what expectations does she have or do others have of her based on her place in society. These things may never end up on the page, but they help me to understand the way that she values money or the beliefs that she was raised with, which can influence how she treats others, interprets motivations, and can even affect her own motivations to raise her social status in certain ways. I love personality tests and so this page is where I laid out what my MC’s personality would look like based on four of my favorites.
The Myers-Briggs Personality is an inventory that your personality down to four aspects, resulting in a category like ENTP or INFJ. My main character is an ISFJ which means warm, caring, responsible and relates to other characters like Neville Longbottom and C-3P0.
The four temperaments were originally developed by Hippocrates regarding bodily fluids and how they affect your personality type. My character is phlegmatic, meaning she is sympathetic, yet tries to hide her emotions, relaxed, and makes compromises.
The Enneagram breaks identity into nine types, all of which have different ways of thinking and feeling based on a larger inner motivation. My MC is a 9 – The Peacemaker and she seeks harmony, to the point of conflict-avoidance and self-forgetting.
The alignment system is based on Dungeons & Dragons character creation. It evaluates characters on two axes: good – evil and chaotic – lawful. My character is a lawful good character, which means she believes in doing the right thing, she believes in justice, but can be restrained by the expectation that the law/order of things will allow this justice to be served, which it doesn’t always do.
If you’re not familiar with these, you can always see the links above to learn more or take a test, answering questions as your character would, or simply google them and a popular fandom like Harry Potter or Disney princesses to see which characters align with which personality types as your basis.
Most importantly, however, is the questions at the bottom. People can align similarly on things, but how does that manifest into their relationships, actions, etc?
Scales are one of the fastest, yet introspective exercises that you can do to get to know your character better. Here are just a few that I’ve compiled that can help you see where your character falls on a scale between passive and aggressive or honest and dishonest. It is interesting to think about each one, or create your own and compare different characters and where they fall on the scale, then figure out why they do. Lastly, it is always important to consider your main character’s wants and needs, but often, we may forget that our secondary characters have them as well. These are the things that are important to understand for specific characters.
For example, why did that character betray your MC? Is it really for a couple hundred dollars? Or is there some deeper want/need that caused them to act that way? This can help to create characters who don’t feel flat or cliche because they have reasons to do what they do.
Wow! That was a lot. If you’d like the full, blank worksheets, click HERE and let me know if they help at all. I’d love your feedback!