View Full Version : Lesson 2: Character Basics Part 2

March 17th, 2009, 05:09 PM
Now that we’re done noting the basic physical characteristics, we’re going to note some basic psychological characteristics about our new character. These are small points that maintain the essence of the character and how s/he relates to others.

Charisma—does your hero have the ability to charm even the living and dead? Does she have problems with alpha males, turning them off when all she wants is to be seduced by one? Charisma is that hard to define quality of likeability. When someone has charisma, they have the ability to charm people, to get people to like them and believe in them. I usually rate charisma from 1-18, one being the lowest, eighteen the highest in being charming. Most times, I randomly roll three 6-sided dice three times, writing down the total score. I toss out the lowest and the highest, using the middle score as the charisma factor for my character. Then I note what is so likeable about the character- are they defenders of the underdog, do they smile at people and make them feel special and respected? Do they seem to have the ability to lead without being rude? Do people seem to gravitate towards them? Are they seductive to any and all they meet? These qualities are good to have when you’re showing them with others.

Sexual preference—is your character straight, gay, or bisexual or even omnisexual? Do you know what kind of sex position they like best? What turns them on? What turns them off in a heartbeat? What are their top three sexual fantasies? What are they sexually afraid of? What do they want to try but are afraid to tell their lover? These things go in this section, allowing you to build a sexual profile of your character. Note-- Lena Austin does an excellent workshop on writing sex scenes and I’ve incorporated many of her ideas to help deepen this aspect of my characters. You won’t regret taking it if you get the chance.

Personality type- Are they a Type A personality? Are they alpha, beta, gamma when it comes to their essence? Are they emotionally, physically, or motive driven? This is the area where you can list what kind of person they are, how they act professionally, how they are in private, and what they want to change about their personality. If you’ve never seen a personality profile, there are many online sites that ask questions and the responses will tell you what kind of person you are. When I need to quick create a character, I often find one and fill it out as if I’m that character. The answers often give me that little edge in how to deepen the character further. I mark what drives them- emotion, physical things, or motive. I also list personality quirks here as well.

Character type—how is this different from the above? Simple. Here is where you can give an example of who your character is like. Are they a cross between Han Solo and Wolverine? This is where I normally have reference points regarding the overall character. One of my characters is what I call “Damsel in Distress Buster.” She believes a woman can help herself, conquer the bad guy, save the hero, and succeed at all she does. She’s a cross between Storm from the X-men and Red Sonja. Because I have these reference points that I’m familiar with, I know that though she’s emotion driven with a tendency towards Type A overdoing things, she also will go out of her way to help the underdog without making sure they truly are underdogs. This is where you take the above and refine it, giving you some deeper markers to guide you.

Occupation—self explanatory. What does your character do for a living? Do they live to work or work to live? Are they successful by their standards? How about by other people’s standards? Where do they work? What kind of money do they make? Do they have good benefits, vacations, sick days? This is where you can take the time to give them a solid working history—which will reflect the character’s essence. If they’re the creative type, are they a writer, a jeweler, perhaps even a mage? Perhaps they’re in a job because it pays, but not because they love it. Note this. It’s important to know how they see their job since it affects how they react to any threat to their way of paying bills and taking care of themselves. If their job plays part in the storyline, this is where you can refine the details that you might need to incorporate later.

Now that we’ve gotten this far, we’re going to get deeper into learning about our character. The next section we’ll be dealing with GMC (Goals, Motivation, and Conflicts) and other aspects that help us better understand the characters and how they relate. For those who write romance, I’ll also be including a section dealing with the romantic interaction between the hero and heroine. Angela Knight introduced me to this worksheet, and now I don’t know how I ever wrote without it.

Assignment #2-- Fill out the character sheets and think about how these points can help enhance and deepen the original story idea.

Eva Lefoy
March 17th, 2009, 11:21 PM
Hi Cynnara,

Can you suggest any personality test sites that you have used? with good effect?


Red Dragon
March 19th, 2009, 04:24 PM
Hi Cynnara,
I'm enjoying your lessons and have attempted the assignments. Can't wait for lesson 3.
You did say the story doesn't have to be a good one to begin with, right? :) Maybe I'm attempting to put too much into it. Medieval era, murder, marriage and misunderstandings.
I quite like my female character though. She is semi-high born who takes on a disguise.
Probably won't amount to much because I don't have the passion about it that I would if it was a story that simply must be told,
and I do want that passion back. I'm lost, being unable to write.
Many thanks for this course,

March 19th, 2009, 06:38 PM
Hi Rusty! Right now, you don't need a great story idea. The reason is-- as we do the character sheets and more-- you'll see how to take your so-so idea and add to it while still leaving you the flexibility of adding more to the storyline while free writing.

What I'd do is this-- take the idea you have now--- use it. As we continue onwards, you'll see if there's too much plot, too little plot, and if it really relates to the hero and heroine enough to make the story a passionate story to be told.

March 19th, 2009, 07:08 PM
Cynnara, thanks for the lessons so far. I've been using them on a book I've already written, trying to get to know my characters better. Are these profiles more useful for brand-new characters then already made ones? I figure it can't hurt to do this for my made ones.

Red Dragon
March 19th, 2009, 07:30 PM
Thank you Cynarra,
I'll try to be patient :)

Yakkity's question interested me and I went back through my files and found a 'magical personality test' I took on behalf of one of my old characters. The test, and more about types, is found at http://www.llewellyn.com/free/mpq.php
I also found a short version of the 9 personality types at
http://www.enotalone.com/article/4896.html (http://www.enotalone.com/article/4896.html) which I'll try to apply to all of my characters.
The trouble is -- they all seem to come out pretty much the same as me. :)

Now I'll go looking for 'traits'.

I haven't done this much thinking in ages. Thank you!

March 19th, 2009, 08:04 PM
You can do it for characters you're already working with or even new ones. The idea here is to get them down in such a way that allows you to access their information when you want and how you want.

Another good personality test is http://similarminds.com/cgi-bin/newbig5.pl

I also like using http://www.2h.com/personality-tests.html

And because I like Jung-- I do a test using his components of personality. http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

Hopefully one of these will help you a bit to get into the mind of your character a bit easier.

March 19th, 2009, 08:08 PM
Hi Red Dragon!

Sometimes, when we write organically, we honestly forget how much time we DO put into our stories and characters. Many times I've thought and thought on the movie trailer in my head, wondering what will happen next, what the story is and more. But the problem is-- I forget what I've discovered as I get into the flow of writing what's before me. The idea here is to take that time-- the time you use your mental skills to create the character and have them down so you can use the reference sheets at any time without forgetting something important. This way, you can put it down and basically-- forget it. It allows you to get your mind into a pattern of flow I call-- "This story only."

What that means is that for "this story only" it's going to flow the way the story is, the way the characters are...and nothing else will forge itself in there, because it will all follow what the story and characters need to get to "the end".

Eva Lefoy
March 19th, 2009, 11:08 PM
Thanks so much! I will check them out.

Eva Lefoy
March 19th, 2009, 11:13 PM
Thank you Red Dragon! I can sure use the suggestions.

Red Dragon
March 20th, 2009, 01:36 AM
I understand. This framework will certainly allow us to begin the story proper with confidence and an uncluttered mind and make it easier for the muse to flow -- with a little help along the way from all the work we are doing now. I dare say this might reduce the number of drafts we'll need to write if we do a comprehensive job with these sheets, now.
It occurred to me that I must do character sheets for my other characters too. I stopped at the main one. :) It's back to the blank pages again.


I like Jung too and will check out his quiz site.

March 20th, 2009, 06:21 PM
LOL I find that I do them for all the main and secondary characters. That way, I find I can easily keep track of them and in case the secondary characters end up with stories-- they have sheets already done.

Yup, the idea is to make it easier for you to free write without having to backtrack or to worry on how to make things match up after you've gone so far to another plot line that you need to trash half a book.