How I build my characters. (Feel free to use this if you like.)

I wanted to share what I have been developing over the last couple of weeks (with the help of my wife). Specifically character sheets. This is a document I am creating for my protagonist, and some other important characters. I didn't start out with a form like this, but rather converted an already completed character sheet, replacing the items with question prompts ( you don't get to read about my protagonist, sorry). Having a clearly defined person when I start is extremely helpful, and I look forward to getting these new, fully fleshed-out characters on the page. Hopefully this might help spark some things to consider in your own characters.

All About ________
  • Gender
  • Age
  • One-word Personality Type
  • Body Type
  • Skin Color
  • Hair Length/Color
  • Clothing
  • Eye Color
  • Facial Shape
  • Height
  • Possibly weight
  • How do they act in relation to others?
  • What they think of themselves
  • How do others think of them?
  • Whose company do they enjoy?
  • What do they think about their society
  • What gender roles do they fall into?
  • What gender roles do they break away from?
  • What do they believe in?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What makes them unique at it? (ex: uses only knives to hunt dangerous game, etc.)
  • What is their level of education?
  • What kind of people of the opposite gender do they like? (This can be important if you have a romance of any kind.)
  • What are some special abilities? (Magic, cunning, etc.)
  • What was growing up like?
  • How did they do in school (if they attended)?
  • What was their family like?
  • Did they get along with their parents/siblings?
  • What are their current views/memories of growing up?
  • Were there any traumatic/impactful occurrences in their past? How did this affect them?
Character Arc:
  • What do they learn by the end of the book?
  • Why is it important that they learn it?
  • Find a few more things that will change in the character over the course of the book.
Where does the character start out at? What are their beliefs at the beginning when we first meet them? How do they act? Are they immature, too mature, rude, timid, etc?

This is where things need to change. Questions need to come up, and obstacles challenge them. The character begins to find that their beliefs aren't necessarily true. Confusion and conflict follows.

Everything comes to a head. The character needs to take in what they have learned and questioned to save the day. The best character arcs will incorporate what they have learned into the outcome of the climax. Have Johnny realize that his mother's death can't torture him forever, and he has to move on or he'll never kill the Evil Magic Dude, etc.

This is where you wrap everything up. The reader sees the character reflect on the journey, and what it has done to/for them. This doesn't have to be a perfect, tidy package. If your story calls for a sad or unfinished ending, that's fine, but make sure the character is different in the key ways you listed above.


  1. This is exactly what I do when I start writing. A mini biography helps me know what to do with my character when I get to that point in the story where I'm like "Would they REALLY do something like that?"

  2. That's a question I need to ask more often as I write for sure. I can already tell that it's helping, I feel like I know this new protagonist better.