Blueprint Series Part 7: Character Work

We’re getting into Character Work on the Blueprint today. If you’re just finding this, click here for part 1.

Now, again, this is a subject where there’s just so much you can talk about, and many, many people have. Tons of approaches, infinite personalization. This is stuff that I like to put in. You feel free to put in the stuff that’s important to you, and to your particular story and style.

Step 7: Character Work

Character Work- Individuals

For each character, fill in any information you know/believe to be relevant.

  1. Name, including any titles or nicknames
  2. Age
  3. Basic physical description (size, build, eyes, hair, marks)
  4. Family situation (any living or deceased relatives, relationship with family, does the character live with family or have any particularly close or estranged family ties?)
  5. Occupation, including any specifics of the job, work environment, co-workers that you know or believe may be relevant
  6. Living arrangements
  7. Interests
  8. Special traits or abilities
  9. Strengths, weaknesses, fears
  10. Personal History, childhood, adolescence, adulthood. Highlight any life-changing events and their effects on the character.
  11. Positive and negative aspects of personality
  12. How will your character be different at the end of the story than s/he was in the beginning? Jot down some details that may be highlighted in Part 1 of the story that will change by the end.

Copy and paste these questions for as many characters as you choose to detail.

If you read and recall my post on the Story World section, this is like that in that I like to think relevancy when I do this. Some stuff I’ll just throw in because it occurs to me, but generally I like to think about what it means to the character or the story. Be as detailed here as you want, or as sketchy. Leave blanks and fill them in later–even after you’ve started writing your draft. There are always things that get discovered along the way. After all, if you really had everything figured out here, how boring would that be?

Most of these are self-explanatory, but there are a few things I’d like to touch on.

Personal History…I’m not asking you for a life story here, or to come up with a childhood for the sake of exercising your keyboard. This comes from a notion I have that the purpose of backstory is to explain why a person is the way she is. (Characters are always motivated, right?) If your heroine is a big man-hater, there’s probably a reason for that. So what happened? You’ve got some ideas about that, but can you also make them relevant to the story?

How are you going to bring us that information in a way that’s not a dream, flashback, mirror-gazing thoughtologue, or As you know, Bob info-dump? Maybe you can tweak this backstory to make it easier to work into the story you’re about to write. Maybe you can tweak the story or the characters. Make the confidante co-worker into someone who’s known the heroine for years. This is a nice time to be thinking about the hows as well as the whys and whats.

Now moving on to the last question, about the change in your character…you may recognize this as a redundancy. Hey, this is Character Arc. Yep. Will it kill you to write it again? No. And now that you know that much more about your story and have had that much more time to develop your ideas, who knows what you might come up with when you do. Jotting down some ideas of how to show the difference from beginning to end just gives you that much help getting started on what to include in Part 1, which is coming up before you know it.

But not tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll still be on Characters and discussing relationships.

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3 Comments

Filed under Blueprint, characters, links, tips, writing

3 responses to “Blueprint Series Part 7: Character Work

  1. Wulfie

    Hey, I’m following this series with great interest and finding it fun and informative. Thanks for taking the time to put it out there for us.

  2. Pingback: Blueprint Series part 13: Battling Threads « Hunting High and Low

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