As I stated in the first part of this series, the short character sketches can be used as writing prompts or as a prewriting strategy. Don’t be too exhaustive; it’s enough to just jot down a few general notes on your characters in order to know at a glance what is unique about each of them.
To illustrate this, let me show you how I have designed my own character sketches:
1. Sketch Number
To start with, I like to organize my sketches by number and add their creation date. I also like to make note of what story they belong (or could belong) to.
2. Character’s Name or Nickname
If you want to delve deeper into this topic, take a look at the post titled, How to Name your Characters.
3. Type of Character
This point is easy to complete if your characters are part of a specific story because you already know what role they play in it (protagonist, antagonist, mentor, driver, tempter, etc.). You’ll find more information about the different roles in the post, The Importance of Secondary Characters.
However, when a character isn’t part of any story yet, it is not that easy to assign him (or her) to a role. To solve this problem, ask yourself these questions: Does (s)he meet the requirements to be classified as a protagonist (or antagonist)? Should (s)he play a minor role? Is (s)he a hero or an anti-hero? As you can see, there are many possible combinations.
4. General Information
I usually add data such as the characters’ gender, age, date and place of birth, place of residence, etc.
In this section, it’s not necessary to go into too much detail. You just have to consider the features that make a character different from the everyone else (a scar, a limp, strange physique, speech defect, etc.). I also like to include the characters’ height, eye color, and hair color.
As in the previous point, try to focus on what makes each of your characters special. Is he or she a home-loving introvert or a rather independent and sociable adventurer? Choose the adjectives that best define your characters’ personality. When I fill in this section, I like to take into account their main virtues and shortcomings as well as their hobbies, fears, dreams, and goals (which can be important to define their motivations in the story).
What do your characters do for a living? In this part, there’s also room to explain the characters’ frustrated vocations because I think the things they have given up can also define them. This section is important unless your characters are animals or fantastic creatures.
8. Family, Friends, and Acquaintances
It can be helpful to specify the kind of relationship your characters have with their family, friends, and acquaintances. Who are the most important people in their lives?
9. Personal Motto
A personal motto, slogan, or catchphrase is a sentence or concept that sums up a character’s philosophy and values. It’s not compulsory to invent it. You can always use sayings such as “you live and learn” or “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” etc. You can also use quotes by famous philosophers.
Finally, I tend to leave a blank space for other relevant information such as my characters’ biography, a funny anecdote, etc. Anything that helps you visualize them in more detail will come in handy when you start writing your story.
If your want to keep reading about character sketches, please visit How to Write Character Sketches Part 3.