09 Dec How to create a unique set of characters (and keep track of them all!)
Writing your first character can be exciting and fun and a little like writing a different version of yourself. But then what happens when you need to start writing all the other characters in your book?
That next stage can be a little more daunting. But there are lots of ways to inspire your character concepts and bring them to life. There are a few to get you started below but the key thing I always recommend to anyone writing fiction is to start with a blank spreadsheet and start filling in details for each character.
This really makes you start thinking about the unique differences (and similarities) between your set of characters. And seeing them on one sheet in a list can also help you spot if there are too many with similar names or who don’t have enough individual traits.
But a detailed spreadsheet will also help you keep track of them all! Believe me, when you start world-building and have dozens of characters you will need notes on what they all look like and their character traits. And it also saves you a massive amount of time when you are writing and suddenly need to remember if a character is tall enough to be looking down on someone or if the sunlight would reflect in their red hair and if their birthday is in the Spring and all the other millions of minor details that make up characters and a world.
Also, if you get really successful, readers will find details you got wrong! So save yourself the hassle and keep track of it all early on.
Open a blank spreadsheet and create columns for:
Age at start of story (and potentially age per chapter or list any birthdays in the story)
Right or left-handed
Fun skills (musical, dancing, athletics, etc.)
Voice (informal, casual, proper, old-fashioned, likely to swear or not)
You may not use all of this information but you should know your characters inside out so that you understand who they are and are more likely to know their reactions in circumstances and what they will do as the story progresses. You can go back and change the details in your spreadsheet of course (you probably will) but at least then you can search your manuscript for ‘red hair’ and change it to ‘blonde hair’ rather than perhaps forgetting to change that detail and ending up with a blatant mistake in your book.
Have fun creating your characters but also remember you are their creator. You may see them fully realised in your mind but your readers have no idea what they look like or who they are. You bring them to life, little but little throwing showing the reader who they are as the story develops.
Written by Kirsten Rees
Book Editor & Author Coach