Creating characters can be fun and exciting. You design a character out of nothing and flesh them out to live and breathe.
Next you place them in a setting, and give them hurdles to overcome so they can develop into the person that can accomplish the tasks you have set for them.
Why keep track of story characters?
Keeping track of the characters in your stories helps you create well-rounded and realistic characters. It helps flesh them out enriching your story with details such as eye colour, age, family history, which school they attended and so on.
There are various levels of details that you can use when creating your characters. If you think of these details as layers that you apply to make the characters come alive. Layers are the same as in real life.
- When you meet someone, you ask them where they work, where they live etc.
- When you get to know them, they tell you about their hobbies, things that have happened in their lives.
- When you become intimate with them you may learn about the dark sides of their personality, that they are depressed or that something happened to them to make them mistrust the opposite sex.
- We learn about their flaws and their strengths. How they think about life and how they cope with negative things that happen.
- Another layer may include religious and spiritual beliefs. Beliefs about why they are here and what the purpose of their existence is.
There are many layers. Layers that you will find as you write about each character.
These layers are what make a story character seem real and relatable.
We want to see them succeed and overcome the story conflicts so they can once again be happy and content. Or at least free from the current turmoil that plagues them.
But if we only have the top layer of information about the character then they will seem shallow and superficial and why would we want to read about them.
Tracking character details
It is great to track other details, like which chapter your character wore a red dress, or when they found a magical object, when they started to fall in love or when they threw away their wedding ring.
Keeping track of these details helps prevent you from making mistakes which could annoy your readers or make them lose trust in your story telling abilities.
It can also help you gauge the pace along the timeline of your story.
Keeping track of general story characters
You have your major characters and then you have minor characters. Minor characters may seem insignificant but they have certain roles to play to make sure the story moves ahead.
They can impart valuable information or give important tools or advice to your characters which will help them on their journey.
It helps to keep a list of everyone in your novel even if it is the local grocer or the tobacco salesman. This list will help you remember each characters role, which side they are on, the protagonists or antagonists side. Also, which chapter you first introduced the character.
Give each character double duty and let them appear again. It creates a familiarity with the world and helps describe your character by his interactions with each non-hero character’s personal journey.
The benefits of tracking your characters
Readers have a sonar for things that don’t quite seem right in a story. They find the mistakes with characters and the character arc. For example, your character is wearing a yellow dress on one page and suddenly is wearing a blouse and pants. You either did not mention the change or you haven’t kept track of your character well enough. Mistakes like this can make you lose your readers trust in you as an author.
Creating character charts
Character charts are charts you create to flesh out your character.
Using character charts can help you keep track of many details about your character. Many that your reader may never need to know.
The thing is that you will know why your character behaves the way they do.Â Why they choose certain options when dealing with conflict. You will know where they find their strength to overcome evil during the story climax.
Character charts are not set in stone. They can be changed and improved and more information added or subtracted as you write your story.
They are there purely to help you flesh out your characters. You can create one chart for your main character or have a chart for every character in your story. It is all up to you to decide how in-depth you want to go.
Using the character chart to track your character Arc
When you begin the story, your character is in their normal world doing normal things. Then something happens that leads your character into a new journey. As the story progresses your character will learn new skills, become stronger internally, and find their personality traits that were once a disadvantage now become an advantage.
You can monitor your characters growth by maintaining your character chart. You do this by adding the elements of growth that your character is experiencing on their journey.
This helps make sure you are crafting a story that gives your character the skills to accomplish the story tasks.
Creating character charts can help you immensely. They prevent you from driving blankly into your story with no clue as to who your characters are and what they are capable of.
There are many basic character charts available on the internet free for download or you can make your own.
Good luck in creating your characters. Most of all have fun with it. Then you will create a character worth reading about.