In my last blog, I talked about my drive to creating characters and plot. For my characters, I talked about my desire to create realistic, relatable characters that my readers can identify with in some way. I’d say one of the easiest (and most crucial things when creating fictional people) ways to make realistic characters is to know exactly who they are. How is this done? By outlining of course!
Since I’m a visual learner with a knack for organization, I love outlining. I find it to be the best way to visualize who my characters are and what they’re going to do throughout my novels. If you’re a new, or even newer, to writing, getting inside the mind of your characters might be difficult. I know it was for me! After all, how are you supposed to learn everything about a person who exists purely in the mind?
Cue my tried and true character development cheat-sheet.
The first thing I do when starting a novel is whip up a long-standing characterization document for all of my prominent characters. To start, I’ll go through just with my protagonist and antagonist at first, but as I outline my novel and figure out who my secondary characters will be I’ll go through and outline for them as well.
When it comes to outlining, I’ll start with the basics: name, birthday, age, etc. After that, you’ll have to think like your character to understand what moves them and what makes them unique. Usually, I’ll take a personality quiz and answer the questions in the way my character would if they were real. What I like about this particular personality test is that you get tons of information about this personality type. You’ll see celebrities that align with the personality type, understand more about their general strengths and weaknesses, learn how they normally react in relationships, see the type of parent they’d be, and lot, lots more. I find these extra features extremely helpful, especially when I’m writing a character completely opposite from myself.
After I know a little more about my character’s personality type, I’ll start to fill in the tough questions. I’ll go through and write about their goals, their motivations, their fears, and their drive. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Doing the hard work and developing the ins and outs of your characters is absolutely necessary for creating robust, realistic characters.
Getting inside the mind of your characters can take some practice. Don’t be alarmed or discouraged if it doesn’t come to you right away. Just keep practicing characterization. You can even make up characters that aren’t in your book just to get more experience before you get to the characters that really matter. Pick someone off the street and come up with a full character profile for them just for the fun of it.
It may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll do character development all of the time!
Make sure to download my full Character Development template to print out and use for your own works. I’d love to know if it’s worked for you as well as it’s worked for me.