My Character Template

Because I was asked on twitter, here it is.  It’s a static page, so normal caveats apply to it changing at any time.

Now!  Let me explain how I’m using it.  It’s all from Plot versus Character, by Jeff Gerke, and I think it holds promise for me.  I tend to see plot first, and then think “Oh yeah, there are people here doing this.  Maybe they should be interesting.”  This helps me marry these sides.

The first thing I choose is the core temperament, the core personality.  Everything stems from there.  All past events are interpreted through this, all habits and affinities, etc.  When I find this, it helps me start crystalizing the character.

The second section is to help make the character clearer to me.  What does he look like?  What does she like to do?  What is she passionate about?  But it all stems from the core personality.  If I have an INTJ (like me), making them a natural socializer would be a stretch.

Once I have this down pretty well, it’s time to get them fucked up.  No, I don’t mean drunk, I mean flawed.  Perfect people are boring (and don’t exist), and the characters that drive stories tend to be pretty flawed.  So we start hitting this crystal with a hammer.  Not to break it, just to crack it.

First things first, I pick a disaster.  Something has had to have happened to the character in the past, and it needs to affect who they are now.  Maybe they accidentally killed their mother when they were younger.  Maybe they lived with an abusive father.  Maybe they grew up poor, even though they have money now.  Then think through how they would react, and how this would affect them to find…


This is especially true for the more important characters, especially protagonists.  Something is wrong in their life.  It’s causing them pain, but they want to ignore it (easier to stay the same, no reason to change).  The knot drives the inner journey of the character, and for me, finding this lets me structure plot around it, and to make delicious parallels.

As a for instance, if mycharacter had an abusive father, maybe she’s afraid to get close to any guy, fearing that that will happen to her, while at the same time yearning for the love that her father never showed her.  She seeks out guys that are awful for them, and never really lets them in.  That?  That’s a good start of a story.  Through in some dinosaurs and a fight for survival and I’m good.

The moment of truth is the end of my novel.  I may not know it right away, but can fill it in later.  It all comes down, eventually, after I’ve pushed teh character so far, to changing or staying the same.  This is the description of that change.

After this, I may write a scene from their perspective, or a more detailed background, but that’s my start.  Build from foundations, then crack the foundations a bit.  The novel is there to repair that.

Depending on the story, I may add other things.  Maybe I need to know their magic style or super powers, or how they fight.  Maybe they’re all crazy, or a different race that needs description.  That’s my basic start, though.

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