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Character Sketching

No I don't mean literal sketches... although those can be very helpful if you are a visual person. I would LOVE to sketch my characters because of course I know exactly what they look like in my mind, but once it comes time to put them down on paper with a pencil... well let me just say they don't even look human. When I say character sketches, what I mean is writing up a detailed background or sort of profile about your characters. I know that I don't usually talk about this sort of thing, but I was recently given an assignment in my writing class that I am taking this semester, and I thought it would be a great idea to tell "you" that it is a great idea. Although I have never done a complete sketch of any of the characters I have ever created, I have always made sure to know just how they as a person are and how they act so that no matter what sort of situation, based upon their personality, I know how to plot the outcome.

Now once I finish this assignment, I would love to share with you how it works because as I mentioned before, it is an important part of novel writing. Another situation that I found it useful to have something along the lines as a sketch is when talking with readers, publishers, and so on. People often ask, "Oh! What is the main character like?" First of all, if you read the back of a book, you should hopefully get a brief idea of the main character. From then on, it is up to the reader to read and discover! (at least in my opinion). However, with a sketch, you can prepare yourself mentally for these types of questions. I will give a brief example below of a character I will make up on the spot.

Name: Finis
gender: female
age: 18 (most likely determines intended age group for book. Sets up story for YA)
race: human (could be an alien, creature, fairy, etc)
siblings: Oldest with two sisters, one brother (having siblings can have an effect on a characters emotional reaction to some situations. People with siblings tend to be more sympathetic to incidents that involve young children, etc)

family background: Mother is the village herbalist. Father was killed in the Great War when she was nine. She helped her mother raise her siblings after her father's death.

favorite pass time/hobby: horse back riding, and swimming in the river in the summer.

favorite food/drink: fresh honey bun and cherry wine.

weapon of choice: was taught by her father as a little girl to use a dagger. Later learns how to use a sword.

Conflict he/she will encounter: this can be the main conflict of the story, or multiple minor ones. It can be external or internal, or even a conflict that she goes through with another character. Use your imagination. This can help clear things up when people ask either what the story is about, or what kind of challenges that the "heroine" or main character faces.

Does this help ease some writing nerves at all? And sometimes, if you are having difficulty figuring out a story plot, it can really help to make the characters first and then shape the story around them later. ;)


    K. K


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