This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The fifth step: character sketches.
A character sketch is when you write out all you can about your character: his dreams, his childhood, his favorite food, everything. There are hundreds of character worksheets online that are helpful for this, and I recommend trying a bunch of them to see what works best for you.
Character worksheets are fabulous – especially in the beginning stages – but they’re never enough for me. It’s good to know a character’s greatest phobia and her relationship with her parents, but a worksheet can’t predict everything you will include in your novel.
Example: I need to know how Tuccia, my main character, will feel when her best friend goes on trial for a crime she didn’t commit. How will this change her? Will she lose faith in the gods? No worksheet is going to ask that.
After I do my fun worksheets and get a good idea of the plot and how the characters fit into it, I open a word document. I write everything I can think of until the character takes shape. I’ll make a list of questions and try to answer them. I’ll include all the relationships she has with the other characters. I’ll have a page of her talking in the first person about what she thinks of the world. Whatever comes to mind.
Like the outline, this is flexible and I usually go back and change things. Personally, my characters are even more dynamic than my purpose
I would give anything to go back in time and make character sketches for Sacred Fire. I thought I knew my characters because I wrote down their age and hair color, but my beta readers kept asking me about their motivations and I couldn’t answer their questions. I had to make sketches, then go back and integrate the new information. It was such a pain!
Finding pictures of them helps too.