When creating characters for a story, comic strip, movie, or any job that requires them, people often use something known as a character reference sheet. This is a tool that allows you to explore various aspects of a character. You can get pre-designed reference sheets online, but you may have to create one on your own in order to customize it to suit your needs.
Part 1 of 3: Design Your Own Reference Sheet
Step 1. Write or draw a sketch of the character
Before starting the worksheet, write or draw a sketch of the character. The best character sheets are usually specific around a certain story or person. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the character you want to portray on the card before writing it. You could work on a single card or several at a time, which can be beneficial if you want to point out the relationships of the characters at the same time.
- Who is the character and in what world does he exist? A character sheet for a 28-year-old lawyer living in modern Manhattan will definitely look very different than a 45-year-old wizard living in a fictional universe that you created.
- Is the character male or female? What are your most notable physical features? Do you have a family, a spouse, or friends?
- Draw a small picture if you are a better visual learner or if you are creating a graphic novel or comic strip. This can help you become familiar with the character.
- Keep in mind that you don't have to make it too long yet. This is a more brainstorming session to help you determine what would be helpful to know about the character. Write down a paragraph or two, and consider what aspect of the character you need to explore further.
Step 2. Identify the basic events of the play
A character sheet should explore the way in which the character has responded to events in the past. It should explore the way in which life has shaped you. Spend some time identifying the important events in the play.
- You don't have to outline the entire plot of the novel before creating a character sheet. However, it might be a good idea to have some notion of what happened to the character before the beginning of the story. Create a short personal story for the character. Keep in mind that nothing will be fixed at this point. You can always change or modify things in the future.
- Interpersonal relationships are also an important component of the character's story. What type of relationship has this person had with friends, romantic partners, family, mentors, and other people? Having a basic idea of the main relationships in your character's life can help you build a solid piece.
Step 3. Lay out the basics
Make the first part of the card that requires the basic information. Details like name, age, and occupation are a great starting point when writing your own reference sheet.
- Start with the basics, like name, age, occupation, and physical description. Try to be detailed with the description. What is the character's style? How does your voice sound? What kinds of habits and gestures does he show?
- Then focus on its basic qualities on a deeper level. What do you like and what not? What is your marital status? Do you have children or family? What is your profession? How old are you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you a leader or do you follow others?
Step 4. Ask more difficult questions
As you progress through the tile, you will need to ask more difficult questions. You can freely diversify and expand existing ideas.
- From there, strive to dig deeper. What conflicts does the character face? How have you reacted to events in the past? How have certain events shaped you? For example, imagine you are going to write about a 58-year-old widower named Robin Leland, who has two children. How did the death of your wife affect you? Does this affect your current relationship with your children or other family members? How did you deal with the moment when your wife died? How do you face your death today? How long has he passed away? What was your relationship with her like? As you can see, you can focus on one aspect of the past and expand from there.
- Talk about interpersonal relationships. All characters have relationships with each other and the world, which affect the way their lives go. Focus on the important relationships the character has and ask specific questions around them. For example, imagine that Robin has a daughter named Rose, who looks a lot like his late wife. How does this identical appearance affect the way Robin interacts with Rose? If Rose is a teenager, how does Robin talk to her about puberty, dating, and the like? Do these issues bother you? If so, why? Robin is a more conservative man? As you can see, you can learn a lot about the character's personality if you focus on their relationships.
- Talk about the underlying motivations. What drives the character and why? What is the main motivating factor? All good characters have something they want that drives their story. Talk about wants and needs. What does Robin want and why? Imagine that a drunk driver killed his wife. Maybe Robin will take the initiative in your city to improve the laws against drunk driving. However, you can dig deeper. Is Robin ignoring her pain in taking on this fight? Is this a distraction from thinking about the pain you feel over the death of your wife?
Step 5. Ask specific questions for your work
As stated, a good character sheet is as specific as possible. There could be some questions that are specific to the story. You must include them in the file.
- If you are creating a fantasy world, this will be very important. For example, if there will be supernatural elements in the story, you might have to indicate what powers the character possesses.
- In some stories, fighting and war are at the center of the plot. You may have to focus on items like the character's weapons and fighting style.
Part 2 of 3: Use a Predesigned Tab
Step 1. Find a reference sheet that works for you
If you don't want to create your own file, you can get many in predesigned format on the internet. These tabs can save you a lot of time and request information that you would not have otherwise considered. Choose a reference token that works for your project.
- If you are writing a short work of fiction (which is typically 1000 words or less), you may need a shorter reference sheet. It is easy to find specific formatted reference sheets for short works of fiction. These usually ask for basic information about the physical appearance and personality of the character.
- Short stories (which have a higher word count) will ask for more information from a character reference token. These will usually ask for some backstory and quirks, in addition to basic information around the physical description and character traits.
- Character sheets for novels and short novels are usually much longer, as they require more information. They will delve into elements like backstory and will also ask for information on religious beliefs, possessions, education, etc.
Step 2. Fill in the form with more information than necessary
It might seem that certain aspects of the token are irrelevant. For example, some aspects of the character's backstory might not be included in the plot. However, it is better to have more information than is necessary. Knowing the characters well can enrich your writing. Even if you don't refer directly to a certain aspect of the character's backstory or religious beliefs, these will show up in subtle ways in the subtext of the writing.
Step 3. Skip the irrelevant parts of the token
However, keep in mind that not every part of a reference token will be relevant to the story. For example, details about the character's clothing might never appear in the writing. Some cards may ask for information about the character's weapons and special abilities if you are writing a fantasy play, but this will not be the case if you are writing a realistic story. You should strive to complete a reference sheet as thoroughly as possible, but omit sections that are not relevant to the work you are writing.
Part 3 of 3: Using Reference Tokens
Step 1. Make an effort to include a lot of information
A character reference sheet is important for a work of fiction. This allows you to get to know the character in as much detail as possible. Complete the form with as much information as possible. Take a few days to pick up the sheet and add new data and facts about the character as they occur to you. Get lost in the world you are creating.
Step 2. Keep the reference sheets in a safe place for later reference
You will have to refer to them when you begin to write the play itself. Keep them handy for later reference. It's a good idea to keep them close to the area where you usually write or work. It might be a good idea to get yourself a specific folder for character tiles so that you don't lose them.
Step 3. Use the pre-designed reference cards with care
These can be tempting, as they save you some of the work. However, sometimes it is better to make your own tiles. In this way, they will be specific to your story and will be as useful as possible.
- Some of the questions on the predesigned cards are somewhat ambiguous. These usually don't contain enough white space for you to go into great detail. Don't oversimplify the characters by using the pre-designed reference tiles.
- Some of the questions on these cards may be irrelevant to your story. For example, if you are writing a script to be performed, you will only have limited control over the appearance of the character. Very specific information about your appearance will not be very important.
- There will be a lot of flexibility in a reference sheet that you create yourself. As noted above, one question will lead to another, and so on. This will allow the story and character to grow naturally.