A Simple Character Worksheet

There are a ton of these on the internet, and mine isn’t that special, but I wrote it with fantasy in mind. I consider this just a worksheet, not a total character write up. This is something I start with when I’m fleshing someone out for the first time. Typically, my characters come to me with one or two stark traits, maybe black as night hair and a love of chihuahuas, or densely freckled shoulders and eidetic memory. I usually let characters sort of create themselves as I write based on their reactions to situations, but I find that I need what’s basically a logbook of what I’m saying about them as I go. So I begin by jotting down at least pieces of the following worksheet and fill in what I skip over as the information reveals itself.

I also want to say very quickly that I don’t mean the very popularly touted idea that characters write themselves. Yes, sometimes you find yourself writing So-and-So saying or doing something you’d never imagined her to do, but you are still writing it. You, the writer, have control over what you put down on paper. You’re the god of your world. Wield your powers, Wise One.

Below is a text based version of the worksheet that you can copy and paste into whatever word processing thing you use (Google Docs is my weapon of choice). I wrote in some suggestions to help you as you go if you’re into that which you can delete. A printable can be downloaded here for you too without the suggestions so you can go hog wild.

 

CHARACTER SKETCH

Name: This is how your narrator refers to them. Be consistent here based on who’s narrating, even if you jump from head to head

Full Name: The character’s name given at birth or with any current titles

Nicknames/Aliases: Include who uses these other names (yeah, I basically wrote “name” three times, but I use this because it sparks backstory and relationships)

Birthdate/Circumstances: Knowing the exact date may not be that important, but the season and astronomical timing may matter depending on the world or the character’s culture. I also include here where and how the character was born, like in their parents’ home, mother attended to by local midwife, or in a cloning tube, a year too early and all alone.

Species: For me, this is any group that likely cannot (at least not easily) breed together. So I might have elves and humans which could have children, but conception would be rare. Remember, in our world, species usually don’t cross breed and mostly can’t. This isn’t to say half-elves and quarter-goblins can’t/shouldn’t exist in your world, even in abundance, just take genetics into consideration, and please do NOT confuse species with race.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – I always include the actual words I use in-book to describe, typically when a character is first introduced. For instance, if I give a character copper hair, I won’t change it to red here, or, more complicatedly, if someone has “piercing” eyes, that goes in this description along with the color.

Race: I feel like I should say this one more time — Species and Race are DIFFERENT. So while different species often cannot breed, races can, and people of mixed racial identity are very common (at least in a world where travel occurs (which yesss that is your fantasy world if anyone has a ship and trades)). We usually just use race to refer to humans, but I’m going to assume in your fantasy world you have other humanoids which may have their own or cross-over races with your humans. Before this becomes its own blogpost, I’m just going to encourage you to do a lot of research into genetics and the actual history of how peoples have traveled in our world and tell you to be creative and informed.

Eyes: color, shape, misc. descriptors

Hair: color, length, style, misc. descriptors

Skin: color, state (burnt from outdoor work? very well cared for?)

Weight/Height/Body Type: Environment should be a big factor here

Distinctive Markings: tattoos, scars, freckles, wings, horns, seventeen eyeballs in a world where eight are the norm

PERSONALITY – Here it is more difficult to use words I use in-book as personality is largely inferred, so I like to use examples instead of just the right descriptors. Like, if So-and-So’s weaknesses include, say, food, I might say “Once, So-and-So ate a whole chocolate birthday cake that her mother baked for her little sister’s third birthday. The morning of Lil Sis’s big party, Mom found So-and-So passed out on the kitchen floor swathed in the clinical light of the fridge, cake crumbs, and shame.”

Strengths: I start with the good stuff, because I like liking my characters (even the baddies).

Weaknesses: A pitfall I always trip into is making these opposites of the strengths. That might be a good place to start (He’s brave! But dumb! He’s logical! But emotionally shielded!) but being one thing doesn’t always make you also the other.

Hobbies/Talents: What a person likes says a lot about them. Include what your character allows other people to know and what they keep hidden.

What Makes Them: (be forewarned I went a little Pixar here)

  • Joyful: Sunshine!
  • Sad: Rain 😦
  • Disgusted: Wet socks! Ew!
  • Afraid: Thunder and lightning!
  • Angry: A ruined beach day >.<

(The above is a great example of that opposites thing being silly but not useful)

BACKGROUND – I try keeping this section light, but once an idea starts, sometimes it flows out. Don’t let any worksheet or other planning device ever stop you (especially mine as it has very little space). If you’re on a roll, even if you’re talking about strengths under their cultural background or something, just go with it You can chop up the pertinent stuff later.

Culture: You may not have come up with your world’s cultures yet, but you can jot some ideas down here. I suggest making this very vague and elaborating on culture in its own worksheet (I’ll write that someday).

Family/Childhood Friends: A list works here, and also your character’s feelings about those listed

Where/How Did They Grow Up: The city/town/farm and the physical house/room, as well as their socioeconomic class

Romantic History: This is a good place to figure out their sexual identity as well

 

You probably noticed there were no questions relating to the character’s motivation or the plot, but as I mentioned, this is just a minor worksheet to get your started. It can also be handy to refer back to as you’re writing if you forget someone’s exact eye color or their father’s name. Since the worksheet prints out on two pages, I like to have those facing each other, on the left and right, in a binder or notebook so all the character info is spread out at one time.

Here’s hoping this is helpful to you.

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Vacancy – 1.01

VacancyCoverPhotoVacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading here.

 

I just need somewhere to stay.”

It’s not a very consequential thing to think, I just need somewhere to stay, especially if one were in the position Lorelei Fischer was, driving almost blindly down an unfamiliar, unlit, unstraightening road while torrents of rain pelted her windshield, but Lorelei had had the good sense, or perhaps just the dumb luck, to speak this thought out loud. Words have more power when spoken aloud, they’re all about intent, you see, and maybe Lorelei knew this somewhere deep down in a dormant hidey-hole of her unconscious, or maybe some otherworldly power had coaxed the words out, or maybe our heroine just had a bad habit of talking to herself. Whatever the reason, she did articulate that desire, and at that moment a sign appeared at the very farthest reach of her high beams, flailing in the storm’s gales.

It was a rickety, old thing, wooden with chipping paint, and if it hadn’t been for a perfectly timed moment of abnormal stillness in the rain and wind, and another lustrous strike of lightning somewhere in the distance, Lorelei would not have been able to read the elaborate lettering:

Moonlit Shores Manor
For The Weary Traveler

And the very fortunate, smaller sign that clung just below on two thin chains:

Vacancy

She slowed immediately, turning down the gravel drive just beyond the sign. Moonlit Shores Manor sounded like a perfectly acceptable place despite that it was out in the middle of nowhere with almost no advertising. She navigated the narrow pathway in the dark, thick branches overhead shielding her car from the worst of the rain. Maybe the place would be run by a tiny, wrinkled woman and her gaggle of cats, she thought, taking another turn, the road so far behind she’d forgotten it. Maybe there would even be cookies. Lorelei felt the tension leave her body, if only for an instant, at the mere thought of chocolate chips, then every muscle tensed again at what she came upon.

Moonlit Shores Manor was, in fact, an immense, daunting, hulk of a place, impossible to take in with one glance. It towered over her, its many stories disappearing into the black sky as she peered up through her car windshield between torrents of rain swept to the side by tiring wipers. She made out its wood-paneled face and a pair of windows, elaborate molding sinking down over the glass like the heavily-lidded eyes of a skeptical stranger. Looking rather like it had skulked straight out of a horror film, Lorelei contemplated the place and her choices, but the rain, you see, funny as it always is, was the deciding factor. A pair of doors were just beyond the reach of her headlights, and though she was at first apprehensive, the relief of finding somewhere to stay, the sleep in her eyes, and the chill in the car forced her out into the storm, across the gravel walkway, and in through the great entrance.

Wind caught the door, slamming it behind her, the echo rattling through the foyer. Outside, the storm raged, but the sudden quiet shot though her like a cold lightning strike. Whether it was the massiveness of the entryway, or the disturbing shadows the dual staircases at the ends of the room cast, Lorelei felt her stomach flip over as she dripped on the wooden floors and clutched her bag to her chest.

When no one came, she took a few steps deeper into the entryway, wondering exactly what time it was as she hadn’t thought to check. To the left, an archway lead into a sitting room, a fire crackling at its far end. Someone sat in a rocker, their silhouette illuminated by the dull flames. She crept up to the back of them, her mouth dry, unsure what to say.

“Hello there!”

Lorelei jumped, turning to see a shadow in the archway she had just come through.

“Welcome, welcome,” the woman motioned to Lorelei to follow her back into the foyer, “I’m sorry; it’s so late I didn’t think anyone would be showing up–and in this weather–but we’re always open!”

Lorelei cleared her throat, glancing back at the form in front of the fire, apparently undisturbed, then returned to the entryway. Nothing like how she’d imagined, this woman was young and gorgeous, though the word barely did her justice. Tall, with great bunches of black hair that trailed over her shoulders and stopped at the small of her back, she floated to the counter in the foyer and pulled her silken robe a bit tighter.

“Storm’s nasty,” she flashed Lorelei a knowing look, her heavily rimmed eyes sweeping over her soaking form, “Thought about doing something about it, but so many are from all over, they like the change. They say it’s soothing!” There was a crack of thunder then and the foyer lit up with a blinding whiteness for an instant. Lorelei gasped, and the woman chuckled, a comforting, throaty sort of laugh. “Are you from around here?”

Lorelei shook her head, “A little ways west.” She pointed over her shoulder as if that told the whole story and immediately felt like an idiot.

“Ah,” her smile was warm and sincere, “Well, do you have a reservation?”

Lorelei’s heart dropped right into the pit of her stomach and, had it been feasible, a resounding splash would have echoed throughout the manor. Her face must have fallen as well because the young woman only smiled more comfortingly, if that were possible, “Oh, you don’t need one, we’ve always got room, but some folks like to call ahead. So,” she started rustling papers under the counter, then ducked beneath it, “You’re…?”

“Lorelei–” she answered, but was immediately interrupted.

“A Lorelei?” she popped back up and placed a book on the counter, “Well, I’ve never met one before.”

“Yeah…” Lorelei watched her shuffle through the papers in the book, pulling out loose ones and stuffing them back under the counter distractedly, “Fischer.”

“Well, there’s some paperwork,” she flipped through more papers then sighed heavily, “I’m so disorganized, Arista’s always reminding me…Have any pets or other live creatures to declare?” Lorelei shook her head, and the woman continued more to herself then to her guest, “Oh, lovely; Ren will appreciate not being woken up, the grumpy bastard. And Grier, well, ha,” she chuckled to herself, “You should have seen him with the direwolves last–oh, damn, where is it?”

“I’m sorry,” Lorelei took a step back from the counter, guilt swimming in her stomach, “I know it’s late.”

“No, no,” she smiled again and waved at her, “It’s just that we lost our other receptionist over a month ago, and I seem to be falling behind more than I’m catching up,” she giggled to herself in a weary sort of way, “You’re not looking for a job are you?”

Lorelei stood quite still and blinked down at the mess the woman was still shuffling through. It was weird, really, as she stood there staring at the complete stranger in the dead of night in an unfamiliar, almost spooky place, during a frightful storm and soaking wet, how wonderful she suddenly thought it would be if she could stay there. Genuinely stay there. Her whole chest warmed at the idea.

“What am I saying?” the woman suddenly broke into laughter and dropped a second massive book onto the counter with a resounding slam, “You’re on vacation, and here I am trying to rope you into work! My apologies!” She thrust a pen into Lorelei’s hand and pointed at the top of the page she’d opened to, “If I can just get you to sign in, we can sort out everything else in the morning. I bet you’re exhausted.”

Lorelei realized just how drowsy she felt at that moment and could hardly focus on the roster she was signing. She squinted down at the words, written in the same elaborate script as the sign outside, only much smaller: Name; easy enough, Race; what? She squinted harder and realized it must have said Date, scribbling “August 12”, Mode of Transport; weird, but alright, then finally Reason for Visit.

She pondered this for a quick moment: why was she here? Well, she had driven there, an entire day’s drive really, and there had been that sign. But why was she driving? The image of all her family and friends in one big room suddenly filled her mind, their countenances annoyed, growing into bewildered, then finally horrified, and she just as quickly shook the image away and scrawled “vacation” in the space.

“Right then,” she glanced at the roster for a split second, “Oh, a car?” Her eyes lit up as they fell on Lorelei again, “How contemporary of you!”

“I guess?”

Drowsiness beginning to settle on her, Lorelei followed the woman up the creaking staircase to the catwalk above the foyer and down a narrow hall. What looked like real burning candles dimly lit the way in a pleasant, warm glow. She almost reached out to one, but stopped herself–they couldn’t be real, of course, that was just her sleepiness getting the best of her.

The woman took her down another corridor all the way to its end, stopping before a door with a blue stone embedded above the lock and revealed a key from her pocket. She plunged the sapphire-colored bit of metal into the lock and swung the door open.

The room was pitch dark, save for two tiny spots of light that Lorelei could have sworn she saw, but disappeared as soon as her escort walked in. “Breakfast’s between seven and nine in the dining hall, just off the entryway, but I’m assuming you’ll sleep in, poor thing, so I’ll make sure Ando’s around to make you something else to eat.” She flicked on a light and the room filled with a warm glow. Everything, the rug, the comforter, the armchair, seemed to be a slightly different shade of blue. “Is there anything I can get you tonight before I leave you?”

The words hung on her lips, and Lorelei found herself watching them for a minute longer than what she knew was socially comfortable. She shook her head, feeling the warmth in her cheeks.

She shot her a fantastic grin and stepped out, slipping her the sapphire key as she passed her, “Well, if you do think of anything, I’m Ziah. Goodnight.”

“Wait.”

Ziah stopped on the threshold, glancing back over her shoulder.

“Um,” she was a bit embarrassed suddenly, but forced herself to speak, “Were you serious? About needing someone to work here, I mean?”

“Oh, well, yes, but,” she shifted in the doorway, appearing uncomfortable for the first time, “I didn’t mean to offend you. I do apologize.”

“No,” Lorelei put up her hands, “I’ve just been looking for a change and, ya know, if you’re taking applications…”

“I do get a good feeling from you,” she crossed her arms and leaned against the doorway, taking a long look at Lorelei. “I would say think about it, but now I’m feeling I’ll hold you to it come the morning. Absolutely no one has applied. There’s a process, of course, but if you still want the position, I can most likely make it happen.” She squinted, pursed her lips, then grinned again, “We’ll talk in the morning.”

Lorelei stared at the door as it closed and continued to stare long after. Had she really just offered to take a job here? Where even was here?

She felt compelled to take a few steps back, knocking gently into the bed and dropping down onto it. Lavender rose up to meet her from the downy comforter, a shade of light teal. “What am I doing?” Her voice sounded far away, and her eyelids were too heavy to keep open.

Then, a noise sounded from the corner of her room. She couldn’t move, a mixture of concern and overwhelming fatigue grounding her to the bed, but she listened very hard. Something scurried, or fluttered–she couldn’t tell–across the room. This place was old, she reminded herself, and it was probably only a mouse which, at this point, she didn’t care if it climbed under the covers with her, as long as it let her sleep. Lorelei felt herself slipping into that state between reality and dream, remembering Ziah’s words, “Lorelei…never met one before,” and managed a meek laugh.

The rain pelted the window above the bed in a steady hum. In her mind she heard distant voices as she slipped into a dream. It was something she was used to at this point in her life. She always heard far-off, ambiguous voices when on the edge of sleep, as if her dreams were rehearsing. There was quiet laughter, then an even quieter gasp, some whispering, and she thought she even felt a tiny wisp of breath on her ear. Then something happened that Lorelei was not used to: one of the voices rang clear: “Oh, my, Bur, this one…she’s…oh! She’s human!”

An Introduction or That Time I Didn’t Cry Into A Carton of Ice Cream Because That Shit is Cliché

I turned 29 yesterday. Like, for real 29, not 29 for the third time, not 29 with five years experience, but actually one score and a decade minus one years old. Established: 1987. High school graduating class 2005. All that. It doesn’t really mean much to me except that I think it should mean something, and since it doesn’t, that kind of freaks me out. (Well, I guess I am becoming acutely aware that my prime baby-making years are behind me, but my gyno assured me that anything before 35 is not medically considered risky for a first-time pregnancy, so I’m technically fine there too.) But my lack of urgency still somewhat alarms me.

So I need some goals. Or at least A Goal. I recently established a sorta-career in fringe* IT without ever taking a computer science class because who needs those when you grew up accidentally catfishing creeps in AT&T chatrooms and teaching yourself HTML so your Neopets’ would have bangin’ webpages, right? Check on the job front. I have legally bound a man to my person and, as established, babies may and can still be in the future and we’ve already got two children in the form of furry felines, so check on the family front. After being super frugal for most of our lives, we’ve secured a very comfy home and some savings, so I feel pretty in control of my material needs as well. So what’s that leave?

*fringe = I don’t code, I don’t fix shit, and I especially don’t know what’s wrong with your hardware, but I’m technically in the IT department and everyone thinks I know what I’m doing so hell yeah.

Ah, yes, that leaves passion. Fire. Creativity. I’ve been writing my whole life (sans those first few years where I wasn’t doing much more than eating, shitting, and crying, though 2008 was eerily similar to that). My ability and productivity have ebbed and flowed, but my fervor has never been snuffed out completely. I’m currently working on a fantasy trilogy (so creative, right? Like no one’s ever thought to write a set of three books set in a faux-medieval magical world before!) and I know I just gotta get it done. I’d like to finish, and yes my version of finish is probably different from yours, before I’m 30. Book one is largely complete, as in the words have been vomited on the page and some preliminary editing has happened, and book two is in its very early stages. Can I do it? Well, I started planning this story way back in 2011, so the math says no, but fuck numbers: I’ve always been more partial to words anyway.

And what better way to get myself writing more than by literally writing more? And how about writing ABOUT writing? O geez, it’s writing-ception. Of course, this is me, a non-published, BA-only-having, motivation-less weirdo who uses the word “non-published” instead of “unpublished” like she’s some kind of pseudo-creative but really she just forgot there was a real word for that state of being, sitting on her couch giving out what’s going to look like advice and tips on writing. And that’s the kind of thing I should hate, but I’m going to indulge myself because, like, I’m a grown-ass woman, and I can do whatever the hell I want.

So on this blog you’re going to find me ranting about stuff that annoys me, telling stories about my cats, maybe a couple terribly sketched cartoons, and, like, a writing prompt or two. Oh, and I might try publishing a serial or something here. You know, both for masochism’s sake and for funsies! So please join me. Think of it like a birthday present for a stranger that costs you nothing but your time (which is probably the most precious thing you have, but you’re already wasting it here, so just stay awhile, okay?) It can really only get better after this super awkward ending to the most awkward of all blog posts: introductions. Bleck.