Sunday Writing: Who Are You People, Anyway?

Last week in preparation for National Novel Writing Month, we attempted to write a very short synopsis of our story idea. However, some of us get ideas for characters before we know what’s going to happen to them. And that’s a great place to start! So let’s get to know the people in your story.

Unless you’re doing some kind of anti-hero thing, you’ll want readers to be able to like your main character. That way, they’ll care about whether she discovers the secret formula/gets the job at the bookstore/escapes the robot assassin/whatever. She’ll have to have some flaws, or else she’ll just annoy the crap out of everybody and they’ll start rooting for the robot.

You’ll probably have a few other people with important roles, too. They might be friends, mentor types, lovers, enemies, or whatever. All of your main characters need to be different enough from one another to keep things interesting, and villains still need to seem like real people with clear motives.

I usually take forever to come up with the right names, and I have a whole post about that over here. Though every character is unique, different systems of personality typing, such as enneagrams, Myers Briggs, or even astrology signs, can be helpful in beginning to think about characters and how they interact with one another.

Like a lot of writers, I fill out character worksheets for my main characters, asking myself questions about the character that make me get to know him or her a little better. Like so many writing exercises, this may seem a little hackneyed, but it really helps! For me, anyway!

Here’s my own character worksheet. I’ve borrowed from The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier and a few other sources. I even got idea from our own MissWorded. Your challenge: adjust it as you like, and fill it out.

This can take quite a while. If you want to share with the rest of us, feel free to just share your answers to the questions above the asterisks, rather than the whole thing. Have fun creating your unique, realer-than-real, unforgettable character!


Enneagram (or Myers Briggs or zodiac sign, as you like)


What are 10 adjectives that describe his/her personality? Make at least three of them negative.

Height/Weight (or just build/figure)

Description of hair (color, texture, etc)

Description of eyes (color, size/shape, etc.)

Description of skin (color, complexion, etc.)

Any scars or tattoos?

Does she have a job? if so, what is it, and does she like it?

What does s/he like to do for fun?


Description of voice

What are a few phrases s/he uses more than once?

What are some physical gestures that are particular to her/him (i.e. toying with wedding ring, putting hands on hips)

Overall health, and any health issues

Athletic, or not so much?

How does s/he usually dress?

What kind of car does s/he drive, or how does s/he get around?

What’s her/his home like?

Where did s/he grow up?

In a few sentences, what was childhood like?

What is her/his cultural or ethnic background?

Where did s/he go to school?

What’s her or his home life like now?

What are her or his closest, most meaningful relationships?

Is s/he religious at all, and if so, how?

Is s/he political at all, and if so, how?

Has s/he ever broken the law? Ever been arrested?

What is s/he scared of?

What is s/he annoyed by?

What’s a good habit of hers/his?

What’s a bad habit of hers/his?

How does s/he act when s/he’s really happy?

How does s/he act when s/he’s really angry?

How does s/he act when s/he’s sad?

What kind of sense of humor does s/he have?

How smart is s/he?

How does s/he act at a party?

Favorite food, season of the year, type of music?

Least favorite food, holiday, movie?

What’s the worst thing that could happen to her/him?

What’s the best thing that could happen to her/him?

By Bryn Donovan

Romance writer, poet, quilter, and dog cuddler.

13 replies on “Sunday Writing: Who Are You People, Anyway?”

I’m not sure I can fill this out for everyone I have in mind yet.

I know my heroine is going to be a teenage girl (in a YA dystopia? SHOCKING), she’ll be of average attractiveness* and really smart/independent. I want her to be independent enough that it could cause problems in her dystopian world, but smart enough to hide it. I’ve also got my big bad guy, who is an appearance-obsessed misogynist mad scientist type. Plus there will be an older lady of about 30 who helps out the heroine and (possibly unsurprising PLOT TWIST) is the captive-yet-estranged wife of said mad scientist bad guy.

*I haven’t come up with an operational definition for that yet, but I know one element to my plot involves ranking people by how attractive they are, and I want her to be in the middle or maybe the bottom.

Ooo, interesting. I’ll have to bookmark this.

I don’t think I’ll be able to – or even want to* – fill it in for each and every major player, but it could be useful for the villains.
*by which I mean that I like discovering things as I write about them. Like “surprise! X has a distinctive scar and Y speaks a language I didn’t know she did.”

Oh ho ho, I needed something like this. One of my main struggles with my main character is keeping him relateable even though hes an android and thinks a little more like a computer than a human sometimes. This will help iron out some kinks.

Also I totally did not know what an enneagram was. Now I do. Apparently my main character is a Type one/The Reformer. Which is kinda hilarious to me because the plot revolves around him sort of unwillingly ending up part of a group of rebel guerrillas.

Oops. I love making character sheets for text-rp’s but never thought of using it for my fiction, which is a really good idea. I picked the name of my main-character in the previous post, probably because you can shorten Erika to Rik. And I’m usually faster with the extras (her best friend and his partner are much more fleshed out than Erika herself), so this is great.

For when I have the time ;)

I love and hate these sheets. Every time I try to do it about a character, I never seem to get very far. At the same time, I feel like I *should* be able to complete it. So I keep trying to do it, but I can’t seem to ever get into the character’s head enough to get anywhere.

I’ve actually never found a character sheet like this that I really like before, but this one looks pretty good. Since this is the first one that I’ve liked, it’ll be the first one that I fill out for any of my characters, and so I hope that it works well and doesn’t end up frustrating me!

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