get the newsletter

shine along

November 23, 2010

Two For Tuesday: Get In Character

Kate Hart
What is it? Post two of anything: book reviews, pictures, quotes, poems, songs, videos, rants, shout outs, whatever floats your boat. Just connect them somehow. That's it.

Today: "What do I do, now that I've finished my book?"

The standard answer: "Start writing your second."

I desperately, desperately did not want that to be good advice. Why the hell would I have bothered writing the first one if I didn't think it was good? What a waste of time! Oh but then I started querying, and rejection got me down, and to pass the time I thought, "I'll just start a new book for fun. No expectations."

Lo and behold, the second book got me agented. But that's not why I suggest you write a second book while querying. I suggest you take this advice because regardless of your query success, writing the second book will help you make the first one better. Writing completely new characters made me focus on how they differed from book one's cast... and made me realize I didn't know book one's cast nearly as well as I thought.

That fact has become painfully obvious now that I'm trying to rewrite book one. Changing to first person has helped a little, but I'm still having a lot of trouble pinning down my male MC. I have the feeling he should be more of a d-bag at first, but I can't seem to write him that way, and I don't know if it's me or him-- but it's easier to blame him, which is why I've been trying some good ole fashioned character building exercises, and thought I'd share them with you.

Writer Online has a cool set of character tests. The results give you an archetype to consider, complete with "personality indicators," their general personality components, and which mental illness your character would be most likely to have.

None of the "character charts" out there quite did it for me, so I combined my favorite parts of each into one massive character-building worksheet. It's an Excel file that you can download  here if you're interested - it includes categories for physical characteristics, relationships, personality traits, random details, your character's top ten lists, and questions about the character's place in your story.

Any other tricks and tips for creating characters? Tell us in the comments! :)


  1. "Writing completely new characters made me focus on how they differed from book one's cast... and made me realize I didn't know book one's cast nearly as well as I thought." <--YES!!! I discovered this, too.

    And thanks for the links! Character-building worksheets are great.

  2. Awesome links! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  3. "And made me realize I didn't know book one's cast nearly as well as I thought."

    YES! I know Kaitlin already quoted this but YES! I'm re-writing my first book (male POV) and dear God, it's hard to get in the f#$%er's head.

  4. I just downloaded that file and my jaw dropped. This is so going to help me in revisions.


    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.


  6. Wow... that is one intense spreadsheet. Thanks! I'll have to try filling it out. :)

  7. Does anyone make better spreadsheets than Kate Motherloving Hart????? No.

    I also found that the second book made me rethink the first, big time! And this spreadsheet is going to help a TON in revising both. you = rock.

  8. Wow, these are great resources! Thank you!

    Does someone want to help the computer idiot? I have the .zip file downloaded, what do I need to do to open the spreadsheet itself? Thanks!

  9. That character worksheet is AWESOME. I can't wait to try it out! How do you get it so that you can scroll at the bottom, but the top stays fixed?

  10. Oh man, for some reason I REALLY have trouble nailing (heh) male MCs, particularly love interests, in the first draft. I'm looking forward to reading these sheets.

    Here's one of my ridiculous short cuts: I approach my characters as if I'm writing fan fiction. I make them look and act like a character from TV--always in a completely different genre, usually changing the character's age or motivations completely, as well as details about appearance. It's cheating. But it also helps me pin down physical descriptions and body language in my drafts.

  11. yayyy! I've had this post open in a tab on THREE DIFFERENT COMPUTERS over the past few days waiting to get a chance to read it carefully! It's SUCH perfect timing because I'm in the thick of revisions, too (of book...five? yeah, lol), and it all comes down to figuring these characters out and making their motivations really come to the surface.

    I've found that I basically have to write a backstory or list of pivotal moments in each character's life in order to get my head around them. Sometimes I try thinking about their interactions, too...what is this character's first memory of meeting this other character? I write the scene, and then it never goes into the book. or...sometimes it does. gah, I do a lot of writing that never makes it into final draft form! (whatever final draft form will turn out to be, haha!)

    thanks for the great links!

  12. Glad you guys liked it!

    Bri, you should be able to right-click and choose "extract all."

    Horserider, highlight the rows you want to be stationary, then go to "view" and "freeze panes."

    Phoebe, that's an awesome approach! And Elissa, I have a lot of that too - random information and conversations scribled or saved here and there.

    Sarah Enni, I am officially changing my middle name to "Motherloving."

  13. Kate - Thanks! I've done that though, and what extracts are a bunch of files, all of which take me to random coding on webpages instead of a spreadsheet. Could very well just be my computer, I'll have to try it another one :)

  14. LOVE Character-Building Worksheets, but I cannot master Excel, so THANK YOU!



All content copyright Kate Hart 2016

Template copyright @ 2016, Blogger Templates Designed By Templateism | Distributed By Blogger Templates20