Character development is an essential part of writing, but it can also be a pitfall. It’s easy to get dragged into the many, many character sheets with a million questions about your character. And all the while you’re doing that, you’re not writing the story.
I’m not saying these sheets can’t help. If you have no clue about who your character is, it can be helpful to answer a couple of these questions or write one or two background stories on your character to get a better grasp. What’s not helpful is when you do all of this and spend hours on hours getting every detail down, from their favorite food and color to all the freckles they have on their body. Not all those details are going to go into the book (really, you shouldn’t: here’s why), and knowing their favorite food generally doesn’t give you the vital information you need to develop their character.
What information you need to develop believable characters
So what information do you need? Well, only very little information you need to figure out is what they look like. You can check out, for instance, Pinterest for inspiration on that (don’t get caught in that rabbit hole though — guilty of that myself!). Most of the characterization in your story has to do with your character’s wants and needs: what drives your character to action? What do they believe to be true that is a lie? What is their most essential relationship? And so on. You want to note down things that have shaped your character into who they are.
Get my FREE Easy Character Development Sheet!
Not sure where to start? No worries, I got you covered! Just fill out your e-mail below, and I will send you the character development sheet I created for excel! It has only 28 columns, i.e., 28 questions for you to worry about. Not only that, but you also don’t need every column for every character. Do you want to note down a secondary character? Don’t use every column again: you don’t need as much detail about secondary characters as you do about main characters.
To help you, I’ve marked the columns you don’t need for the secondary characters in red. And if you judge that there are even more columns you don’t need: go ahead and skip those as well! If you’re unclear about what a certain question is about, just hover over the title of the column and an explanation will appear.
That’s all! I’d love to hear if the sheet was helpful at all for you, or if anything was unclear, you missed something, etc (get in touch with me here). Any feedback is welcome! Now go forth and write!