I’ve seen it hundreds of times over the course of my many years writing:
Character building in the form of “Interview Sheets” or “Character Charts.”
You know the drill; you have this wonderful little application for you as the narrator or you as your character to fill out for an in-depth study of history, quirks, personality, thought process, appearance, and more.
But my question always ends up being: How much does this help? I’ve tried it and found that I end up just wasting time on trying to flesh out characters who would rather add skin to bone in their own time. Of course, these character “cheat sheets” are only supposed to provide an outline, some inspiration, but I’ve yet to find any.
For me, my characters become rounder as I write. I’ve yet to have any sort of problem with this style and have often found it preferable to the reader. If your character is narrating in the first person POV, why would she comment on her long golden-brown hair in the first five pages of the novel? I know when I tell a story, what I was wearing or how my hair looked become totally unnecessary details in the telling. If an omniscient is telling the story, why would the narrator need to convey your character’s happiest memory if it will never have any impact on the story at hand?
In this way, writing for myself is easier because my characters unveil themselves slowly– and as a reader, I appreciate the same.
I will go out of my way to find fitting names for each character. Oftentimes, they denote something in personality, history, or main objective, even if the correlation is a small one. I like to create pathways (something tangible I can reference later) from one character to the next and their impact on the story. I will give them age ranges, base descriptions, and occasionally will outline certain personality aspects. Beyond that, it all comes out in-text.
In that case, though, what else can be done to help make a character more “real?”
More importantly: What do YOU do to help make your characters more real?
I’d love to hear some input. Especially if you have a really rockin’ alternative to the character chart.