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DETAILED character lists (suggested by an unknown editor)

Crumbly Writer

I thought you'd get a kick out of this suggestion to an author by their editor on how to create characters.

CHARACTER SKETCHES

This the Character Sketch my editor has me use. (Sorry, she's not accepting any new clients.)
Using the following prompts, write a starting-point profile for the novel's main character/s. The more surprising the details, the stronger the character.
Objective Facts
● Full Name
● Age when story commences
● Date and place of birth
● Physical description (distinguishing features, height, eye/hair/skin color)
● Number, name, relative age of siblings
● Parents (names, living/dead)
● Partner (name/marital status)
● Sexual orientation, if appropriate
● Education (level, qualification)
● Hobby/interest
● Occupation
● Religion/philosophy
● Position on political spectrum
Subjective description
● What 5 positive traits might he/she say they have?
● What 5 negative traits might he/she say they have?
● Does the character believe he/she has a special talent?
● What is his/her biggest insecurity?
● What is his/her biggest fear?
● What is his/her guilty pleasure?
● What is his/her life goal?
Hypotheticals
The answers to the following questions may not be relevant to the story, but may help build a picture of the kind of person the character is. They can be used to help think about subjective descriptors (see above).
1. Is his/her glass half empty, or half full?
2. Does he/she prefer sunrise, or sunset?
3. Name one book he/she would take to a desert island.
4. Name the first record he/she ever bought, or the first gig he/she went to see.
5. Describe his/her favourite shoes and/or underwear.
6. If his/her home was on fire, what ONE item would he/she save?
7. Describe his/her idea of a fun day out?
8. What good causes does he/she support?
9. Outline his/her idea of a 'holiday of a lifetime'?
10. What one thing has he/she never told anyone?
11. If granted one wish, what would it be?
12. In the movie of your novel, who would you cast in the role?

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Name the first record he/she ever bought, or the first gig he/she went to see.


Who buys records these days?

Replies:   sejintenej
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

What good causes does he/she support?


What if the character is a villain?

Replies:   Dominions Son  tppm
Dominions Son

@Dominions Son

Is his/her glass half empty, or half full?


The glass is always completely full. Drinking glasses are generally not strong enough to hold a vacuum and would implode violently. :P

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Does he/she prefer sunrise, or sunset?


What if the character is a vampire?

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

It seems to me vampires would prefer sunset. After sunset comes night, and that is when vampires traditionally are active. Unless the vampire prefers to sleep the day away to being active and getting fed, in that case sunrise with the opportunity to rest in a coffin would be preferred. Knowing which might tell you something interesting about the character.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

It seems to me vampires would prefer sunset.


A traditional vampire that cant take exposure to even small amounts of sunlight would prefer neither as he/she would have no hope of ever seeing either one again.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Older characters often did. (How else do you think I got my email moniker?) It gives an idea of musical tastes - one story (series) I reread from time to time fills in this answer for half of the cast.

Dual Writer also goes into the principal character's food likes even though that is not relevant to the story - he enjoyed one dish so I checked it out, tried it and make it regularly: a story can be educational.

Replies:   Dominion's Son
Dominion's Son

@sejintenej

How else do you think I got my email moniker?


1. I don't know what your email moniker is unless it's the same as your SOL nickname.

2. To me your nickname looks like a foreign name or word whose meaning is completely unknown to me.

docholladay

To me its whatever method works for the writer. Although they should have some form of list for reference as a story develops. I am not sure if that list should come first or grow as the story does. It is hard for a non-writer to state which is the best method, but I do realize that there probably is no one answer fits all solution.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son

What good causes does he/she support?

What if the character is a villain?


What evil causes does he/she support, e.g. regular contributor to the KKK lynching supply fund.

Does he/she prefer sunrise, or sunset?

What if the character is a vampire?


He/she could still be an early riser (prefers sunset) or a late to bedder (prefers sunrise).

awnlee jawking

@docholladay

For longer stories, I maintain a checklist of each main character's characteristics as they are mentioned.

The type of character sketch above is normally recommended by creative writing tutors for writers who have difficulty making their characters realistic and multi-dimensional. It's a strange technique for an editor to suggest, almost a veiled criticism.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

It's a strange technique for an editor to suggest, almost a veiled criticism.

It says essentially that the author should rethink the character, and then start again from scratch. Posting it on an open forum announces to the world that he's not yet ready to play in the communal authors' sandbox. :(

richardshagrin

Maybe by detailed list he means to list characters who have had their tails removed? Clearly the story with de-tailed characters would involve bestiality or maybe werewolves. Or pony-girls.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Or pony-girls.

What's the point of a pony-girl story without their plug-in tails? And who wants a werewolf story with their tails surgically removed? You'd spend half the story explaining why, and how it impacted them. It's an easier story to tell with their shaggy tails still attached.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

A tail of two cities. Or was that two clities?

Replies:   Dominion's Son
Dominion's Son

@richardshagrin

A tail of two cities. Or was that two clities?


I thought it was a tail of two titties.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominion's Son


I thought it was a tail of two titties.


You're thinking of the great scat books A Tale of Two Shitties.

edit to add: That should put a crappy end to the thread drift!

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