Creative Writing

Character Creation – Thoughts on Character Sheets and Generators

Before I broke ground on what will hopefully be my first completed short story (should finish the first draft this weekend), I fell into what many seem to find – the spinning black hole that is research, research, and continual research.  Looking back, I wish I had kept track of the enormous amount of time I wasted.  I’m sure it’s a ridiculous number, however, I did find a few diamonds sites that will continue to prove worthwhile.

Part of my research focused on character creation, more specifically how a writer’s characters take shape and come alive.  I’ve never had a problem with putting the basics on paper but was and still am very interested in hearing how others do it.  There is a ton of material out there for this, especially if you count the character sheets and generators normally used for role-playing games.  Since my initial writing will be in the fantasy genre I ran into a ton of that type of thing.  I actually stayed away from them and kept my search pointed toward those websites and resources focused on helping writers.

There are two main websites the proved extremely helpful.

1.  The resource page of National Novel Finishing Month

2.  The Seventh Sanctum

Each of them have more materials than I’ve even used at this point, but I really like the generators on The Seventh Sanctum and the character sheets on NaNoFiMo.  The generators are amazing.  While I haven’t used anything exactly as it was ‘generated,’ I have used it several times when I hit a block on how my new character, Yuri, might act or some of the experiences he might have.

The character sheets, on the other hand, I honestly haven’t used much but can see how they’d prove helpful.  My thought is to establish the basics of who Yuri is and then let him evolve before working on things like his background story, motivation, etc.  I did start out with a basic outline of his character but found that as soon as I started writing him into his current situation, he changed tremendously.  He went from an elf, to a dwarf, to a gnome, which of course meant that most everything else had to change too.  We’re now to the point that I can mentally see him and feel like I’ve gotten to know him, so maybe I’ll fill that sheet out again in the not-to-distance future.

If anyone out there has had experience using anything similar, please feel free to comment.  I’d still love to hear how others develop their characters, and whether or not you’ve had success with things like the generators or character sheets.


About The Mad Hatter

A little random, oftentimes heady, totally looking for purpose. I'm moved by topics across the board, sometimes focusing on reading classic literature or more recent philosophy; sometimes given to less productive impulses. In order to stay active, I've also just joined the Yahoo Contributor Network.


5 thoughts on “Character Creation – Thoughts on Character Sheets and Generators

  1. I really have to check out those two pages – thank you for posting them. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for a while now but I’ve never looked at their resource page. I do use character sheets – one of my professors at grad school gave me a six page character bible – but I really prefer character exercises. You know “write a paragraph about the contents of your protagonist’s bedside table drawer” or “what numbers does your character keep in his phone that he/she doesn’t use anymore and why?”

    Posted by A.J. O'Connell | January 7, 2012, 10:41 am
  2. Very happy I could help. The funny thing is that the NaNoFiMo site actually isn’t directly related to NaNoWriMo, which caught me by surprise too.

    Do you normally complete your character sheets prior to working on the story line or as you go along? A six pager right away seems like a challenge in itself. From what I found, I like the character exercises a little better as well.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | January 7, 2012, 10:57 am
    • I noticed that when I clicked the link and didn’t end up at NaNoWriMo! But then it was too late and I’d already left me comment.

      I normally do my character sheets when I’m into the story and need some guidance. I need to be committed to a character in order to fill out six pages!

      Posted by A.J. O'Connell | January 7, 2012, 10:28 pm
  3. Nice article and information. I’ve researched character generation sites before and they do help you get ideas when you run out of names and such. Thanks for the links, I’ll check them out for future use. So far, I’ve been able to make up most of my character names, but I admit it’s tricky when dealing with fantasy.

    Posted by Pennerstories | January 20, 2012, 9:46 am

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