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Want to skip past the intro? Scroll down for the links to my printable PDF character reference sheets!
I can’t stand those times when I’m deep in the middle of writing a chapter and suddenly I totally blank and forget what color my character’s hair is or how long they’ve had their job (if I even knew that to begin with). Those small details really add up to make a story realistic and bring it to life, but because they’re small details, they can allude us when we’re having a productive writing day and we don’t want to interrupt our train of thought to search the manuscript (or our minds) for an answer. At least, I know I don’t.
So I sat down and wrote a list of the most important bits of information about my characters: appearances, preferences, virtues, fears . . . anything that could really affect them in a story, and anything I felt I might need to find again quickly while writing. Since there are so many different genres that rely on separate topics of interest, my list expanded until I had created seven different character reference sheets!
Once I wrote them up, I rushed to print out the sheets and grabbed the nearest gel pen. (Remember those? I used to use gel pens for EVERYTHING back in high school, and I’m still so nostalgic about them that I often pick one up just to write in sparkly purple or metallic green. You should grab a pack, too! These are the ones I’ve been using, the Pen+Gear Fashion Gel Pens. They make writing even more fun!) Then I just filled in my sheets for each character, and bam! Instant character files I could look back on for information, consistency, and best of all, for advice.
Some of the questions and information I focus on are based on a character’s personality and values. Information that can help me determine how my characters will act in a situation. Are they extroverted or introverted? Are they a health nut or do they have a sweet tooth? Have they ever killed before? All things that help influence how my characters react and respond.
However, you don’t have to have all this information on hand for every character. Not every story has a romance plot line, or fantasy elements, or involves family history. That’s why I made sure to organize each sheet by topic. Use what you need for each character. Having these on hand will save you so much time when you forget a small detail while writing or when you have to stop and ask yourself, “What would my character do here?”
Plus, if you haven’t quite rounded out your characters all the way, these questions can really help you figure out just who your characters are!
Ready to get started? I’ve included four of my character reference sheets right here in this post as printable PDFs! Sign up for my newsletter to get all seven character reference sheets plus helpful posts and tips each month delivered straight to your inbox!
If you only want to stick to the basics, I’ve got you covered all in one sheet. The basics focuses on a wide range of important facts, including appearances, communication, strengths and weaknesses, and the bits of their past that matter the most to them. This is the information you’re most likely to keep coming back to.
Next up we have personality traits. On this sheet, you can determine what kind of person your character truly is. How honest are they? How humble, serious, creative? Healthy, trusting, patient? Bubble in your answer for quick, easy reference. And don’t forget to write a bio from their point of view at the bottom, in their voice! It’ll help get you into their head.
Does your story have a romance plot line? Whether it’s the main focus or woven in the background, you character’s romantic life and preferences can play a huge part in the choices they make, and that can extend into any social relationships they have. Especially when it comes to knowing how your character tends to show (and thereby receive) affection.
skills and combat
Not every story will have fighting or killing in it, but if yours does, you’re definitely going to want this next sheet! Skills and Combat includes your character’s profession, fighting style, weapons mastery, and all the attributes that matter most: strength, endurance, dexterity, awareness, intelligence, wisdom, charisma, and their tendency toward violence.
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Do you like using character reference sheets? What other sheets would you like to see me add to my growing resource library?