Recently I posted a blog about designing characters for your stories. I’ve always loved designing things. Whether it was decorating the interior of my homes, designing then planting gardens, writing lesson units for my students or devising a world and filling it with characters, it has always fascinated me.
As I designed and thought about the characters for my current series, Seraphym Wars, I wondered what kind of people they were. Even my Majikals have personalities and appearances, so I had to discover who they were as well. In fact, I have several animals with distinct personalities and appearances for which I had to plan out.
In order to keep all of this straight throughout the books I devised a master spreadsheet, which I showed a picture of. I keep a copy of each spreadsheet in a massive binder as well as folders in my computer. Speaking of several copies, it is wise to keep and update several copies of EVERYTHING you create. You should keep:
- hard copy
- memory stick to carry with you, that way you can access all of your information from anywhere
- buy a separate hard drive that automatically backs up everything on your computer
- files on your computer
I even have an old hp computer that I keep my entire writing folder on in addition to all of the research, pictures, etc that are related. But I may be paranoid after having two computers crash on me and losing everything, including baby pictures for two of my kids.
Anyway, someone suggested that I post my master template for planning characters. Here is the best I could figure out how to post. Hopefully this will be helpful.
Before compiling the character information, it is helpful to know what options are available. Hence I designed a Character Design Planner:
After you’ve decided what traits, etc. everyone has it is time to track it all on an organizer spreadsheet:
What writer wouldn’t love sitting inside a reader’s head as they read a book, whether it is the writer’s or another’s? I would relish knowing what thoughts occur to a reader as they progress through the novel. Are the characters intriguing or boring? Are there too many characters or too few? Is the setting over described or too vague? Should the plot be pimped to make it more interesting or is it already all over the place? Where does the reader fit into the writing of a novel?
Unfortunately, we can’t sit inside a reader’s brain. But we can ask readers what they like and don’t when they read. And we can tell via sales whether a book lives up to a reader’s expectations. But while being written, is there some way a writer can try to zero-in on ways a reader reads?
After giving this some thought and investigation, I came up with the following list:
- According to reader desires, a good novel contains these elements, in this order:
Story-must be interesting
Characters-must have dimension
Theme-must be current
Atmosphere/setting-must seem genuine to story and genre
- Characters are the reason readers read. If the characters are boring or flat a reader will put the book down and pick up another with interesting, intriguing characters.
The main character must want something specific. Strong desire of a goal defines a strong character.
The main character must do something within the story. If all of the plot situations ‘happen’ to the character a reader gets bored. Sometimes the character must instigate the situation.
- Humor helps any story and readers love it. You don’t have to create a comedy, just insert some humor, especially where it’s not expected.
- Lastly, style is not nearly as important to a reader as it might be to a writer. The days of ‘purple prose’ are gone. Today’s readers want quickly flowing story with little narration and less description. Don’t eliminate either completely, just be judicious.