First of all, you may want to download or print out my Character
Sketch Template, as some of the Character Development suggestions that I have work well with it.
Remember when you are doing character development work
that although your main concern is the parts of that character that are relevant
to the story, that isn't your only concern. Anything about your
character is worth writing down, and you never can tell when the oddest detail
from your character sketch will actually show up in the story.
Here are a few things to consider when developing your character:
We are all greatly influenced by our relationship with
our parents. How was this character's relationship with his/her
parents? What kind of people were the parents? Did they have any
odd beliefs/habits that your character has adopted or is rebelling
from? In one story I was working on I had two competing violinists,
one from a family that was musically-oriented with musician parents, and one
whose father considered it a great disappointment that his son did not play
football, as he had. Can you see how these family relationships will
affect the attitudes of the two violinists?
What are your character's vices? Unfortunately,
we all have them. A vice for your character doesn't necessarily have
to be drinking or swearing--perhaps your character is a compulsive
spender. Perhaps your character's vice is something as innocuous as a
habitual over-consumption of sweets; maybe your character is a chocoholic.
And perhaps your character has just been diagnosed with diabetes. As
you can see, what is considered a vice will depend largely on your
What are your character's pet peeves? Sometimes a
person's pet peeve can give you insight into their personality, and what
things are important to them. For example one of my biggest pet peeves
is people who say things like "the floor needs swept" or "the
dishes need washed". From this, you can tell that grammar is
important to me (and a good thing, too, or I would have a hard time of it as
a writer!) If I had a character whose biggest pet peeve was having a
pair of slacks without creases, what would that tell you?
What is your character's typical daily schedule
like? Unless your story is the sort that will completely disrupt the
character's life and put everything in limbo, you're going to have to weave
your tale around this schedule. It wouldn't hurt to know what it is.
What is your character's strong point? Every
story involves hardship, and your character will need a way to survive this
hardship. Usually, this involves the character's strong personality
strength, or plays off of that strength somehow. Scarlett O'Hara
survived Gone With the Wind because of her strength of will, her
single-minded determination to get what she wanted. What is your
What is your character's middle name? How does
he/she feel about it? Some people are embarrassed by their
middle names, other people are proud of them, even preferring them
to their first names. Does your character routinely use a
What about a nickname? Does your character
want to be called Bill, or William B Holladay the Third?
Sometimes you can tell quite a bit about someone by what their
friends call them.
If you are ready for serious detail--ready to bring out the big guns and develop a character so real you could run into them on the way to the grocery store--check out
which is THE VERY BEST character development tool I have ever found. I actually abandoned my own character development materials that I have shared here when Holly came out with this.