Developing characters is half the fun of being a writer. It goes beyond what they look like, what they sound like, and what makes them who they are.
When I first started writing, I created a character sketch for all of the characters in my story. I had templates with all my character information filling up multiple 3.5” disks (yes, 3.5” disks…don’t judge). When I completed my Master’s in English & Creative Writing, I had more in-depth questions that I never even thought to ask.
Here’s the funny thing: after creating all these character sketches and filling out all of the templates, I never looked at them again.
Well, I might’ve looked at them once or twice to giggle at what I originally thought my characters would be like. It turns out that my characters have developed on their own, with a few of them being completely different than what I originally intended. For example, my novel Beyond the Steps of Stone has already had a character get a sex change, starting as a female with the final version of the character male.
Why there is no right or wrong way to develop your characters
As you work on novels and stories, you find an ebb and flow with your characters. When you step away from your project and come back to it weeks, months, years later, the first thing you do is reread it. This refreshes your memory of what you were writing, and it helps you regain perspective on what you want to do with your story.
Nowadays, I’ll use a character template to flesh out basic things about my characters. These are typically the things that come to me during the first brainstorming session of a new story. They are the little details that I want to remember that are important. From there, I let my characters develop on their own. During the editing process, I make sure everything lines up properly. The last thing I want is for my hero to start out blonde and halfway through the story suddenly become a brunette.
Unless I indicate he dyed his hair. You get the idea.
Try a template
However, if you like the process of fleshing out your characters using a template, there are plenty on the Internet to choose from. You can even purchase writing programs specifically designed to help you with the process. I’ve used a couple and they’re not too bad.
There is no right or wrong way to flesh out your characters. It is as individual as the writer. They even tell you that during coursework for degrees like mine. Play around with character sheets and see if you like them, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to just let your characters tell you what they are like as they develop in your head.
How do you create your characters? I’d love to hear your method. Drop a note in the comments below.
And happy writing!