Blank to 50K: Characters Bring Your Writing to Life

Blank to 50KWe’ve determined you want to write a novel, and you’ve committed to getting the first draft written in 30 days. Great. What now? Where do you begin? Some writers start with the plot, others with characters. Either way is fine. Personally, the characters are usually my starting point. They talk to me, take form in my head, and then I figure out what they’re up to. If you’d rather start with plot, go for it – but you’ll have to wait until next week for my tips.

Character Sketches

These are highly touted, and there are lots of worksheets and templates available on the internet. I use Scrivener, and often use their templates as my jumping off point, but that template is very basic. I suggest you do two things:

  • Write a detailed character sketch, at least a couple of pages. See the bottom of this post for a free copy of my worksheet.
  • Write an autobiography – your character’s life story from his/her point of view. A page is fine. This doesn’t have to be long, just focus on the high points – what is important to your character.

Character Spreadsheet

You need a spreadsheet for every novel/series you write. This helps you keep track of who you are writing about. Actually, it does a lot more than that – your spreadsheet can become your writing bible. It tells you who did what, when they did it and where they were. But for right now, keep it simple. All you need is a list of characters, so you can fill in the details for each character as you create their sketches. This is also a great place to keep track of tags that you use to cue your reader as to who the character is. For instance, in my Diamond J series, I use “Wranglers” as a tag for Beau, and I use “red hair” as a tag for Beth. Very simplistic, but I want those things to instantly remind the reader of that character. Another great example of this is the Harry Dresden series. If you hear duster and staff while you’re reading a Jim Butcher book, you know Harry is the character in play.

If you’d like a copy of my Character Sketch Worksheet (Word format) and my Character Spreadsheet (Excel format), please enter your name and email below and I’ll send them to you.

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