My characters, Adam and Valerie, have been in my life for a long time now. You would think I should know everything about them. I thought I did. Then judges in a contest I entered suggested I work to make them more layered. This isn’t the first time I have been told this. But I see that when the excitement of the plot gets going, I forget to make Valerie self conscious about her weight, or pinpoint Adam’s need to clear his name. Like when you ride in a car going 80mph, it’s hard to pick up details at the side of the highway, or that’s what they tell me. Ahem. But going 15mph, all the details are clearly visible. My task now is to keep the speed up but keep the details in mind.
So I looked around the internet, where the knowledge of the entire world is stored, for Character Sheets. I know I have some saved somewhere on my desktop but not on this laptop. I found a pretty good one but it wouldn’t download for me. Being the kind of person I am, I copied it and pasted it into an Open Office document. I started filling it out for Valerie Harding, widow and body conscious social worker.
I noticed that there was no line for characters’ parents to be discussed. Grandparents and grandchildren, but not parents. Val has a very complicated situation with her parents. A mentor suggested that I needed to kill off her dad to give her mom more reason to nag her to remarry. Along the lines of, “You don’t want to end up old and alone, like me.” But, wait, if they were both widows of happy marriages, I couldn’t imagine Mom nagging as much as if Dad got sick of his wife’s ways and divorced her. Then she would not only nag Valerie about her weight, but also about not ending up alone when she grew old.
Another thing I noticed is that there’s no place for a birthday or Zodiac sign. One of the last Romance Writers of America local chapter meetings I attended was a class by Pamela Moran about using the Zodiac to help build your characters. At the meeting, I set down the birth signs for each character. Valerie is Virgo, like me. She is intellectual and curious. Adam is a Scorpio. He’s intuitive and emotional. I had to add a line for that on the sheet.
The physical details are included, such as eye color and height. The nice thing is, I have the details in writing, in a place that I can easily access. I love Scrivener, even though I don’t totally understand how to use it, but the notes and bulletin boards for these details don’t work for me. Maybe once I have watched the tutorial all the way through, I’ll do better. In the meantime, the sheets will keep me on track and help me build layers for the characters.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.