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Fiction Writing Tips: Get to Know Your Characters With a Character Outline

May 28, 2008 3 comments

Get to Know Your Characters With a Character Outline is the first part in my Fiction Writing Tips series.

Before you begin writing your fiction novel, you need to get to know your characters on a more personal level, and in order to do that, you need to create a character outline. Then as you’re writing your fiction novel, you can refer back to the character outline if needed.

When I sat down to write my first Christian novel, Help From Above, I just started putting words to paper. However, it wasn’t long until I realized I didn’t know my characters well enough to really make the story come alive on paper. Therefore, I put the writing aside and began creating my first character outline. Later, when I finished the outline, I was able to put life into my story. Besides, it was nice being able to learn more about my characters’ habits, personalities and etc., and things really did come easier when I could refer back to my character outline.

Following is an explanation of the template I created. Use a new template for each main character, but be sure not to create too many characters. Too many characters in a fiction novel may cause your reader to lose interest and lay your book down for good.

What’s your character’s role in your fiction novel?

By role, I mean is this character the antagonist, protagonist, a family member of the antagonist or protagonist, a friend of the antagonist or protagonist, the girlfriend, boyfriend, fiancé or spouse of the antagonist or protagonist.

The antagonist is the person who will create the conflict for the protagonist throughout your fiction novel. The protagonist will be the main character throughout your fiction novel.

What’s your character’s name?


First, decide on a gender for this character, and then give him or her a name. Some resources to help you pick a name for your character are as follows:

Behind the Name
Fantasy Name Generator
Seventh Sanctum

How old is your character?

You may not mention your character's age in your fiction novel, but just in case, it doesn’t hurt to give each of your characters an age.

How does your character make a living?


Give your character an occupation such as a business owner, artist, writer, nurse, doctor or etc.

What are your character’s good and bad habits?


Think of some good and/or bad habits that you could give your character and have him or her portray these habits in your fiction novel. Some examples: bites nails when nervous, plays with her hair when she’s nervous, constantly says like when she’s talking, etc.

What’s your character’s personality like?


Is this character outgoing, shy, friendly, independent, hard working or etc.? You can give him or her more than one trait. For example, maybe your main character is shy and hard working.

Does your character have any secrets?


These secrets could be from your character’s past or present. You could also give him or her more than one secret, and make this secret a part of your fiction novel. Not all your character’s have to have a secret, but it helps if the main character has at least one secret that he or she struggles to keep hidden throughout the story.

That my friends are what all of my character outlines include. If you’d like to use this template to get to know your characters better, feel free to download it. The free Adobe Reader will be needed to download the free character outline. As you can probably already tell, this is a basic character outline. If you need to, feel free to add to it.

Next week I’ll tell you how to create a story outline, and I’ll also give you a free story outline template to work with.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on today’s post. By commenting on this post you’ll receive an entry into my Mentoring Session Contest. The Mentoring Session Contest ties into this series. Spam comments will not receive an entry and will be deleted.

Finally, to ensure that you don’t miss any upcoming posts in my Fiction Writing Tips series, subscribe to my RSS feed via e-mail. If you subscribe via e-mail, you’ll earn another entry into my Mentoring Session Contest.

Photo credit: Flickr member, Taku

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3 comments: to “ Fiction Writing Tips: Get to Know Your Characters With a Character Outline so far...

  • Doug 5:10 PM CDT
     

    Misti,

    I have to say that writing believable characters is the hardest thing for me. I can write the most intricate plots, have the most detailed descriptions of the scene, but I always feel that my characters could be better. I have tried this technique a little in the past, but I think I really need to delve into it on my latest book.

    Thanks
    Twitter Follower thenextwriter

  • Misti Sandefur, Novelist/Freelance Writer 10:21 PM CDT
     

    Doug,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and for the comment! Your comment on my Fiction Writing Tips series has earned you one entry into my Mentoring Session Contest. Good luck!

    You know, I use to have problems writing believable characters too, but once I started a character outline for each character, it made things a lot easier. Another tip: When you fill in the character outlines, try to think of someone you know and use some of their habits, personality and etc. for your characters.

    If there's ever anything you think I can help you with, just contact me. If I can't help you, I'll at least try to point you in the right direction.

  • Anonymous 7:39 AM CDT
     

    Misti, (and Doug, actually)

    That is really funny! I'm exactly the opposite - I can make the best characters (Although your outline helps a lot, thanks.), but I have a hard time giving them a plot that is unique and good!

    Thank you so much for your awesome character outline!

    -Anon.