My Top 5 Character Worksheets and Why You Should be Using One
Okay. I'm gonna be honest; I don't like to SHOULD people. It feels pushy and... Mean Girls to me. I'd RATHER say "...why I strongly suggest you use one..." but this title is just pure, unabashed CLICK BAIT. It couldn't be more CLICK BAIT if I had put "SHE USES THESE FIVE CHARACTER WORKSHEETS AND YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT." and then it's just a video of a dog howling or twerking (is that still a thing?) or something HORRIFYING that has NOTHING to do with the title of the video and then you get pissed off and go find something else to read.
But, for cereal, I really do think that character worksheets ARE THE BOMB and I like using them for my characters for a few simple reasons.
- No flat characters
- Fewer repeated characters
- I can go into my process with confidence because I LOVE my characters.
With that in mind, let's DIVE RIGHT IN!
My 5 Top Character Worksheets
1. My Own Sheet from my Freebie Printable!
Skill Level: 1st or 2nd Time to Complete: 15 min - 1 hr
Of course, I'm going to plug my own sheet! I use it for EVERY character that I make, simply to get it off the ground. I often do it before the first draft, so I have some basic information about each character cemented in my mind before I write about them. Then, I discover all that I need to know about the character as I write. Then during my editing process, I go through a couple of other processes, as well.
Draft Level: 2nd or 3rd Time to Complete: 3 hrs - 8 hrs
Okay. I know that time allotment seems like it's a bit steep but BRO. Have you SEEN this sucker?
The reason it's number two, below my own, is that exact fact. It's DETAILED AND EPIC. This is something I would suggest you use during your editing process, especially if you're a pantser like I am. It can appear INCREDIBLY overwhelming.
However, the detailed character analysis can help with some pretty important things!
- It can help with plot hole gaping
- It can help with side quest development
- It can help with strengthening your dialogue.
But we will get into the details of that below.
Draft Level: 2nd or 3rd Time to Complete: 2 hrs
This one is MUCH less scary but still, has some useful information. I didn't put the "socio-economic levels" in mine because I feel that's something that's best discovered through drafting. But you may already have this in mind when developing your character line up. In that case, CHANGE THE FORM! So simple!
This whole site has some GREAT resources for writers. Go check them out!
Draft Level: 2nd or 3rd Time to Complete: 4 hrs
This one has neat boxes that could be very nice for a Bullet Journal! It's six pages, but the detail would be very nice to have on hand to work through during quiet moments. Again, not as detailed as my number two pick, but still fairly detailed and asks some really good questions. Especially the character prompts at the end! Writing a scene or two with your characters doing everyday things can help you get to know them!
Draft Level: 2nd or 3rd Time to Complete: 15 min - 30 min
The biggest reason I love hers is the question at the END. Your character's HANDWRITING!!! So cool, this can reveal a lot about your character, not just their emotional state, but also their education level and present stress levels!
Of course, the rest of the sheet is brilliant! Go check it out and let me know what you think!
Why YOU Should Be Using One
I listed a few reasons above:
1. It can help with plot hole gaping
Sometimes, we can forget that our characters are real people and they do real things. This can lead to some really odd situations that may seem a bit too unbelievable. So, when you get questions from your editor about why they HELL your plot has ended up where it is, it might be worth going back to your base elements: your characters.
2. It can help with side quest development
If you've treated even your most minor side character as the hero of their own story, this can lead to some pretty interesting shenanigans. When you need some character development in your plot, it could be incredibly useful to have an interesting side quest. Your Jester Character (that being the category tag for your goofy, comedic relief) can give some pretty interesting backstory to aid in getting your hero where they need to be.
3. It can help with strengthening your dialogue
When you understand WHO your character is, then you understand HOW they talk. You wouldn't have a religious person using expletives in everyday speech. We save that for a "come to Jesus" moment or a "yippee-cay-yay, mother-fucker" type moment. When your character has been raised in a certain way, they are going to speak in a certain way, use certain pieces of slang.
Their age and gender can also determine how they talk. Men and women SPEAK differently, too! Knowing that, if they are tall or short, or if they are prone to shouting would be indispensable in your plot and dialogue.
And there you go! Writing the PERFECT character ISN'T going to happen on one of these sheets. It's going to come after many, many drafts. So be patient, and KEEP WRITING.
-The Ginger Wordsmith