I’ve decided to start an article series focusing on honing your craft as a writer. As a ghostwriter, I get a lot of emails from new writers simply wanting to ask questions about writing in general. Hopefully, by starting up this stream of articles I’ll be able to answer most of the common questions I regularly find in my inbox.
While I’m putting together the article about writing character descriptions, here’s an outline/worksheet that lists many (but not all) of the characteristics you should have developed for your characters in order to make them believable, well-rounded, and memorable. Again, this is a starter list and should by no means be the end to the depths in which you can describe your character.
Full name (including middle if there is one)
Date of birth
Address/or at least location (ie, California, Nebraska, Mars…)
If short, does they have a height complex?
Skin color (also natural, or tanned)
Hair (color, texture, cut)
Eyes (size, color, placement)
Size/shape of hands and feet
Wear nails long or short (cut or chewed)
Teeth (shape, color, size)
Distinguishing marks (birthmarks, scars, tatoos)
Smell (yes yes, ALL of us have our own smell)
Voice (pitch, tone)
Favorite type of clothes/shoes/accessories
What the character actually wears (ie, what he can afford compared to what he likes)
Do they like their occupation?
Are they happy?
Views on money
Actual spending habits
Religious y/n, how does religion play a role in their life
Outlook on life/disposition
Describe in three (3) sentences their average daily routine.
What kind of self-image do they have?
Length of time on an average day it takes him to wake up and clean up
In a relationship? Serious?
List people/characters they spend most their time with, and then list why
- extended family
If no parents, do they strive to fill that hole?
Have kids? Ages?
How do they view friends?
How do friends view them?
How do they view family?
How does their family view them?
Name their hero or mentor
OTHER ODD PERSONALITY TRAITS
(These apply only to fantasy/horror/sci fi novels)
Race (as in alien or humanoid…)
Types of training received
Whether they are comfortable around humans
If they are comfortable around large groups of people
Dead or undead
Are they similar to others like him, or do they stand out?
Can they use a gun/weapon
Any familiars? (if so, describe)
Views towards their people/fellow creatures/race
Have they traveled much from their town/city before the current plot journey?
Are they aware of “the bigger picture” or what “doom” is befalling their tiny village?
Are they comfortable dealing with alien species?
Have they killed before?
Have they killed another human (or another of their race) before?
Was it in cold blood or self-defense?
Will they break down, or will they do it again (and will they enjoy it)?