Tag Archives: character sketch

Must-Have Writing Tools for Character Development

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Character Building

Characters drive the story. That’s why most writers and lecturers out there will tell you that the characters should be developed first. With all the tics and quirks which make them human.

Authentic characters are the key elements which encourage readers to turn page after page. If they feel connected with the character and identify with them, they will be compelled to keep reading. Your plot has probably been told one way or the other one thousand times before but that doesn’t mean it has read like regurgitated material. When you take the time to develop your characters (as well as your setting), you infuse your story with a cast that comes to life on so many levels. Their character traits and development throughout the story, will drive your plot and keep your readers hanging on to every word.

Because characters are so important, many writers start with them. Pansters write without the use of a story outline, they let the characters act and interact, and watch how the story develops. Pansters should have the conflict of their story clearly defined before they start writing to give them a clear story arc.

Tools

Writers can use the following tools to develop and rehearse one of the fundamental skills of their craft -characterization.

Authors should develop an in-depth knowledge of the character’s personality in order to create consistent and engaging personas.

The ultimate goal of a writer is to utilize their knowledge of character development and craft a wonderfully engrossing, character-driven work of fiction.


Downloadable PDF’s

Creating Your Characters – The Line-Up

How to Write a Character Sketch

The Ultimate Character Questionnaire


Image Templates and Charts

To save and print the images for your wall, simply right-click on the image and select “Save image as” then save it to your device, and print. Viola!

  • Wheel of Archetypes

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  • Preliminary Character Sketch

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  • Create Satisfying Character Arcs

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  • Sample Character Outline

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For Book Cover Design See….

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Your Cast of Characters – The Line Up

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In our efforts to craft a new work of fiction, we writers are faced with the prospect of creating our cast of characters.  This is usually how many stories begin, with the blossoming thoughts of an intriguing personality that begins to stir in our crafty little minds.

Understanding the different character archetypes helps me when I’m putting together my character sketches. I post the different archetypes up on my wall and shuffle around different combinations on paper to get the perfect mix for each member in the cast of my story. I imagine them facing different types of situations and how they will react.

I keep the draft of my story outline close at hand to pencil in scenes that help me frame the story arc. Recalling that we all relate on some level to many aspects of the different archetypes, I set the stage. Following the rise to the climax and, finally, the ending – I create sets of scenes featuring the characters that I believe will pack the most punch and hopefully seduce my readers into becoming emotionally attached to the progression of the story. This is probably the largest element that the readers will take away from the story – how they connected with it, it’s feel.

Character archetypes fill our communities and their individual uniqueness adds to the richness of the lives we live. Archetypes represent a fundamental human collection of the different experiences we may have had in the past. They stir up deep emotions within us. These different types of personalities have been popping up in people’s lives since the dawn of time. Most of us have experienced nearly all of them, or most certainly different aspects of them unless we have been sheltered from social experiences and kept away from our community at large.

Although the following list may be information you’re already aware of, I find it helps to use this list when I’m crafting my characters and maybe you will too. It enables me to more readily imagine their traits individually, to understand what drives them, how they will react in any given situation, and what purpose they serve to the plot and other characters.

Refer to the following list when creating your characters. Supply each character with different levels of each aspect. Have fun with creating a dynamic group that will carry the weight of your story. These are the characters your readers will come to know, root for, pity, laugh-with, worry-about, despise, admire, and even love. Referring to this list can help to make your characters unforgettable.


The Four Cardinal Orientations

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The Four Cardinal Orientations define four groups, with each group containing three types (as the wheel of archetypes shown above illustrates). Each group is motivated by its respective orienting focus: ego-fulfillment, freedom, sociableness and order.


The Ego Types


innocent1. The Innocent
Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naive innocence
Talent: faith and optimism
The Innocent is also known as: Utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.


orphan-copy2. The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal
Motto: All men and women are created equal
Core Desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
Greatest fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Talent: realism, empathy, lack of pretense
Also known as: The good old boy, everyman, the person next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbor, the silent majority.


hero-copy3. The Hero
Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Core desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Greatest fear: weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage
The Hero is also known as: The warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, the soldier, dragon slayer, the winner and the team player.


nurse-copy4. The Caregiver
Motto: Love your neighbor as yourself
Core desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
Greatest fear: selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: doing things for others
Weakness: martyrdom and being exploited
Talent: compassion, generosity
The Caregiver is also known as: The saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter.


The Soul Types


explorer-copy5. The Explorer
Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul
The explorer is also known as: The seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim.


rebel-copy6. The Rebel
Motto: Rules are made to be broken
Core desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
Greatest fear: to be powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Weakness: crossing over to the dark side, crime
Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom
The Outlaw is also known as: The rebel, revolutionary, wild man, the misfit, or iconoclast.


lover-copy7. The Lover
Motto: You’re the only one
Core desire: intimacy and experience
Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work, and surroundings they love
Greatest fear: being alone, a wallflower, unwanted, unloved
Strategy: to become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Weakness: outward-directed desire to please others at risk of losing their own identity
Talent: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment
The Lover is also known as: The partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse, team-builder.


creator-copy8. The Creator
Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done
Core desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realize a vision
Greatest fear: mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: develop artistic control and skill
Task: to create culture, express own vision
Weakness: perfectionism, bad solutions
Talent: creativity and imagination
The Creator is also known as: The artist, inventor, innovator, musician, writer or dreamer.


The Self Types


jester-copy9. The Jester
Motto: You only live once
Core desire: to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
Greatest fear: being bored or boring others
Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny
Weakness: frivolity, wasting time
Talent: joy
The Jester is also known as: The fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian.


sage-copy10. The Sage
Motto: The truth will set you free
Core desire: to find the truth.
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Biggest fear: being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes.
Weakness: can study details forever and never act.
Talent: wisdom, intelligence.
The Sage is also known as: The expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative.


magician-copy11. The Magician
Motto: I make things happen.
Core desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
Greatest fear: unintended negative consequences
Strategy: develop a vision and live by it
Weakness: becoming manipulative
Talent: finding win-win solutions
The Magician is also known as: The visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, shaman, healer, medicine man.


royalty-copy12. The Ruler
Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Core desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: exercise power
Greatest fear: chaos, being overthrown
Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate
Talent: responsibility, leadership
The Ruler is also known as: The boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager or administrator.

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Related:

Check out Julaina Kleist-Corwin’s video post about the hero’s journey The Hero’s Journey for Writers


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How to Write a Character Sketch

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A sketch is a starting point.

In the visual arts, artists carry around sketch pads to practice and develop the fundamental skills of their craft with the aim of producing paintings that seem to jump off the canvas, or sculptures that seem to move in just the right light.

The same is true for authors who use character sketches.

Writers use this tool to develop and rehearse one of the fundamental skills of their craft -characterization.

However, the final goal is not to have a notepad full of character sketches, but an author should get to know his or her character through this practice.

While not everything that an author writes in a character sketch must be included in the novel, the author should develop an in-depth and all-encompassing knowledge of every facet of the character’s personality in order to create a consistent and engaging persona.

The ultimate goal of a writer is to take these character sketches and use them to craft a wonderfully engrossing, character-driven work of fiction.

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Try Some Book Study

A Character Sketch is a great way to assess the characters in the literature you are reading or people that you are researching about. It can give you tools of observation as you look at the many details about another individual.

When studying a specific character in a literary piece the sketch gives you the freedom to be a detective and try to find out what the author is expressing through their characters. You can sketch the protagonist ( the favorable hero or heroine in the story,) or the antagonist ( the character which causes the conflict for the main character), or the supporting characters.

This sharpens the skill of observation and note-taking as you focus on one specific character and the traits that make them ‘who they are’ in the book.

Can you write a sketch without a book to study? Absolutely!  A great way to practice is to sketch someone you know in real-life.

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Writing a Character Sketch

When you are writing a Character Sketch, want to look for qualities of character and/or personality traits that you see in the person you want to write about.  The main goal of this is to be able to tell something  about the person you are researching. Think of it like an introduction.  In essence, you are introducing the reader to the person you are writing about.

Be sure to use strong visual words in your writing. You want to provide a lasting mental image of the person or character you are writing about. The use of quality adjectives and feeling in your writing, using words that relate to the five senses,  elicit an emotional response from your reader.  This will allow your reader to not only connect with you and the character but will show how you felt when reading a piece or spending time with the person you are writing about.

This type of writing only requires you to give a brief glimpse of the individual. When you are preparing to write make a list of the traits or details you want to include. It is possible to assign the number of traits equal to the # of paragraphs or supporting topics needed. Or you can categorize the subjects into a broader spectrum which allows you to have multiple supporting points for each topic.  It is always best to outline your writing material first so you have a good idea what you are writing.

Your outline should include descriptions on the following details:

  • Tell about their physical features. ( hair color, height, etc.)
  • Tell about the character’s personality. ( are they funny, serious, quiet, etc.?)
  • Their  likes or dislikes( What you know about their preferences and why?)
  • Talk about their family ( siblings, family history, etc)
  • What are their  beliefs or  hobbies?
  • Include anything that makes us see “who” they are.
  • What do you like or dislike about them?
  • Why are you drawn to them?

Sample Outline

Here is a sample outline for you to follow. It is a basic 5 paragraph ( approximately 500 word essay outline)  Feel free to take this and make it your own or make your own outline using this as a guide.

Introduction:

This section will introduce the character and is typically the first paragraph in  your paper.  It should include the following:

  • Your thesis statement ( the overall theme of the paper or the main idea of what you are writing) . The Thesis statement should  include the most  important character traits.
  • The subtopics ( these become the topic sentence in your body paragraphs) should be included in this paragraph as well. For example: use 1-2 sentences to list the traits that you are going to talk about. End with a transition sentence that ties into the 2nd paragraph.

Body:

This is paragraphs 2-4 or the in between paragraphs. The body comes between the Introduction and the Conclusion. These paragraphs detail the traits listed as the subtopics from the Introduction. Those subtopics should be the topic sentences in each body paragraph.

  • Always try to include the most important trait 1st, the second most important detail next, and so on.  Each paragraph has 1 trait which is discussed in detail. Include information  about experiences that support the trait which is being discussed.

Remember!  You want to pull your reader in so include details that will connect them to your main character.

Conclusion:

This is the last paragraph in your paper. Try to conclude with a final comment, pointed and well-expressed, that highlights the traits discussed in the paper.

  • Restate your thesis statement.
  • Remind the reader of your most important points.
  • Close with a solid statement which finalizes all you are trying to communicate to the reader.

 

Another Approach Recommended by Editors

 Who is your character physically?

Physical characteristics are the first things we notice when we meet someone. Therefore, this is a good starting point when writing a character sketch. Is your character a woman or a man? Is he or she tall or short? Is your character bald? How old is your character? Does he or she have a disability?

Authors, eager to explore the in-depth psychology of their written subjects, might discount these details as unimportant and base. But it is often these very details that lead to conflict or are the means through which we explore a character’s psychology. As an example of this, we recommend reading Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People; in this short story, the physical details of the main character are representations of her internal state. Without a vivid description of this character’s physicality, a critical dimension of the plot would be lost and the central conflict would be nonexistent. Answering questions about your character’s physicality is the first step in creating a fully realized character.

What is your character doing?

This is the next question to ask because it brings into account other aspects of story writing such as setting and time. The answer to this question will also affect other aspects of your sketch, such as what your character is wearing or how he or she is feeling. Is your character walking down the street? Is he or she sitting in a park? Is your character working on a boat? Asking what your character is doing will not only help you understand your character, but also his or her relationship to the setting in your story.

Authors may be tempted to gloss over this part of characterization. When asked what his or her character is doing, an author might give a cursory answer; he or she may answer that the subject is at the movies, for example. But consider all that there is to do at a movie theatre: Is the character waiting in line for tickets or at the concession stand? Is he or she waiting to talk to the manager? Perhaps the character is sitting impatiently waiting for the movie to begin. Getting as specific as you can when answering this question will not only help you define your character, but will also help to define the other elements of fiction.

What is your character feeling?

This is probably one of the more complex questions you can ask about your character. Is your character angry? Is he or she happy, sad, tired, or depressed? Does your character love something or someone? Asking questions about your character’s emotional life might evolve into the production of a character history. While this may be tempting, you have to focus on what your subject is feeling within the context of the story you are writing. Although the answers to these questions are important, they are rarely explicitly stated in the story.

Authors may be tempted to start with the emotional or psychological state of their characters and they may even explicitly state them. This can lead to one of the cardinal sins of fiction writing: telling instead of showing. Implicitly showing how your character is feeling by his or her interactions with other characters or the setting is infinitely more interesting to read than explicitly stating whether your character is happy, sad, elated, joyful, or miserable.

Do you have any creative ideas that help you put together character sketches?

 

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Sources:                                                                                                 http://www.journeysingrace.com/home-education/lesson-plans/literature/how-to-write-a-character-sketch/ http://www.scribendi.com/advice/how_to_write_a_character_sketch.en.html