April 5, 2017 by Valerie Ullmer
How I Learned to Write – April 5th, 2017
Characterization and Character Worksheet
I write character driven romances, most romance authors do. While I never forget about plot and conflict, it’s my characters that I fall in love with from the beginning of a story idea right up to The End.
Most of my stories don’t develop from a concept, such as a situation that my character is in. If I developed ideas from that, I would find myself having to develop their personality around the situation. Instead, my stories come from an interaction between two characters, having a conversation, fight, or flirting with each other and the story expands from there.
For instance, in Kai, I developed Kai’s personality from what I developed from his background, since he was a 200+ year old vampire. When he was human, he wasn’t close to his family and went off the join the war without looking back. After he turned into a vampire, he’d kept to himself, only letting a few in and those were the shifters and vampires he worked with. He thought of humans as stupidly dangerous or they were food when he needed to drink, but beyond that, he had no emotion toward them one way or the other. But when he met Liv, everything about him changed and he felt himself drawn into her world without realizing it. He was still gruff and stand-offish around her at the beginning, but he had to learn that she was the most important person in his life and he had to treat her as who she was to him; the love of his life and mate.
The one thing that helps me develop my characters is a specialized character worksheet that I developed after trial and error from the multitude of other character worksheets on the internet and in writing reference books. For the worksheet I developed, I sometimes answer every question in detail, while others, I delete some of the questions that don’t pertain to the characters. I also have separated them between heroine and hero and always keep them on hand when I write. I don’t read through them every day before I write, as is some author’s prefer, but if I am stuck I refer back to them.
Another great reason for actually completing a character worksheet is that you keep your facts straight. When you’re writing a series, you have to remember intricate details that you’ve written in your previous books. As a writer, you have certain instincts that tell you if somethings off, but your books will have so much detailed information that it will be nearly impossible to remember little details throughout your book series.
And the final reason I love character worksheets the detail you give your characters which brings the story to life. Using all five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing) in your book, immerses your readers into the world you created and from a description or a reminder, the reader can almost reach out and touch because of the descriptions you leave in your book. I love the sense of smell because when I catch a smell that reminds me of something in my past, I can recall memories that have long been forgotten.
When I was young, every summer my family would spend two weeks at my Grandmother’s house in eastern Colorado. On summer nights right after a cleansing rain, the farm would smell magical to me. Along with the quiet and the shining stars in the sky, I could imagine how large the world, and the universe, was although I was standing on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Every once in a while after a rain storm has passed, I step outside and the smell of rain and dirt remind me of those moments so long ago.
When creating character worksheets, each character I create has a distinct smell, because I believe that is my strongest sense. But never skimp on the other senses, they are very important in writing to bring your story to life.
And one last thought on character development. I would highly recommend you find a picture that closely represents your characters and keep those pictures handy. You can use them to fill out your character worksheets, but when you need a visual reference, you can go back to the pictures and refresh your memory.
Below is the Hero Character Worksheet that I use when developing my heroes. I have attached both the hero and heroine worksheet as well as the secondary character worksheet at the bottom of this post. Feel free to copy them, use, delete, or create new character questions as you feel comfortable!
Hero Character Worksheet
Does he like his name?
Place of birth:
What was important to the people who raised him?
Current address and phone number:
Spends time with:
Wishes to spend time with:
How do other people view him?
Overall outlook on life:
What, if anything, would he like to change about his life?
What personal demons haunt him? Is he lying to himself about something?
*Voice (Deep, Growly, etc?):
*How Do They Speak:
*Smell (What Products Does He Use, Natural Smells):
*Hands (Rough,Smooth, Fingers Long?):
*How does he hold his hands, arms (Gestures?):
*What Attracts Him to a Woman (Physical, Intelligence, Sense of Humor, Kindness, Listening, Sexual Prowess, Eye Contact):
*What Body Type Does He Prefer (Curvy, Skinny, Large Breasts and Skinny Waist, Etc.):
*Presence (Focus, Touch. Possessive, Protective, etc.):
What people notice first:
Strongest/weakest character traits:
How can the flip side of his strong point be a weakness?
How much self-control and self-discipline does he have?
What makes him angry?
What people, places, situations does he avoid?
Talents (Skills, Physical/Mental):
What people like best about him:
Ways to annoy this person:
Worst thing he’s ever done to someone:
Cares about most:
What do you love most about him?
Why will the reader sympathize with him right away?