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.
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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