Want to skip past the intro? Click here to go straight to the reference sheets!
I can’t stand those times when I’m deep in the middle of writing a chapter and I go 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.
how I solved this problem
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. (I use Pen+Gear Fashion Gel Pens. They inspire my 90s inner-child.) 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!
If you’ve visited my site before 2022, you might recall that I merged all my articles on editing and worldbuilding with the blog over at Kingsman Editing Services (I’m the novel formatter over there if you need formatting!) This way, you can visit one website and get tips, tricks, and guides from the whole Kingsman team! So if you want all seven character reference sheets, you’ll want to sign up for the Kingsman blog, The Writer Scrolls. (We will only send you mail when we release a new post or have something to share.)
You might notice on the below images, my URL is still on the bottom. But when you download the PDFs, I’ve updated the URL to the Kingsman website, so if you forget where to go for the remaining 3 sheets, you’ll know to head over there!
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, your 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.
Sign up for The Writer Scrolls blog over at Kingsman Editing Services to get all seven character reference sheets delivered straight to your inbox! This not only includes the four from this post but also has:
- Family and Friends
- Community, Religion, and Politics
- Fantasy and Magic
Enjoy, and happy writing!