Read these two paragraphs.
“She finished with a solid landing for a very high score. At the end of her routine, Cari Jenkins flipped her curly brown hair. She smiled triumphantly, nodded to the judges, and walked off the mat.”
Did you read it? Okay, now imagine Cari as she is driving home–
“Cari Jenkins laughed out of the car window, her blonde hair flying in the wind. Life was awesome, and she would be able to progress to the next level in gymnastics.”
Did you catch that? Read the paragraphs above again if you did not.
It’s all about the details in your story. Whether you are writing a novel, short story, screenplay, or other work of fiction, little details make your story more believable. If a reader is reading your story, and they note a small mistake like wrong hair colors, instantly, your whole world grows a little less believable. As the story teller, that is the last thing you want to do. You want your reader to become immersed in your story, almost like they are there.
There is a lot more that goes into plotting a character besides appearance, however. Your characters are what drive the story forward. You can have an amazing plot, but if all your characters are basic and flat, no one will really want to pick your piece up again.
How much plotting for your characters?
It depends on who it is. If it is a minor character, he should not be too in depth. There are exceptions, but unless he is truly important to the story, you don’t need to write about his deepest darkest secret. I recommend at least filling out the appearance section for every character.
However, your main characters and supporting characters should be pretty detailed. Your antagonist needs to be plotted out well. Believable is the key here. Assuming that your characters are humanoid, they’ll have their down days. Your main character should not be perfect. Yes hero, and all that, but really, your reader is going to get bored really fast if they know for sure that the protagonist will win and no one will die because he is perfect and thinks of everything. There needs to be some sort of struggle going on. The reader needs to be on the edge of their seat trying to see if the main character can really overcome the antagonist.
Actually write down the answers to the questions below. You will want to reference them when you start writing!
(image credit: 123mobilewallpapers)
Things to Include:
- Skin tone
- Favorite Clothes
- (Optional: birth marks or tattoos)
- The way they carry themselves (poised, slouched, small)
- What is their favorite phrase?
- What motivates them?
- What are their flaws and weaknesses?
- Deepest secret
- Strongest memory
- What annoys them?
- Any illness or syndrome?
- How many parents? How is the relationship between the character and them?
- How many siblings? What is the relationship like?
- Where do they live?
- Where were they born?
- What do they eat? (Staples)
- What is the landscape like? (Desert, Forest)
- Where is their favorite place to be?
- What kind of society do they live in?
- Movie (If applicable)
- Style of music
- Thing to do in free time
- School subject
- Who are their friends?
- What is their favorite weapon?
- What ability do they have that no one else/ very few have?
- What are their thoughts on government?
- To whom do they pledge allegiance?
For the writer:
I would recommend filling out everything on the list, even if you aren’t planning on incorporating everything. It will help you know your character better. Below are some more questions that help you flesh out your character if you need help with personalities.
- If there was a song played for your character every time he appeared, what would it be?
- What movie character closest describes your character?
- Name three adjectives that best describe your character.
- Name three nouns that best describe your character.
- Spender or saver?
- If they could go anywhere for one day, where would it be?
- What is their favorite childhood memory?
Good luck with your characters!!!
Anything that you think should be included in this list? I’d love to hear!
-The Artful Author