Character Sheets - Building a Character

 Contributed by Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter

Connecting with a reader entails a couple of things, one of which is to have a fully developed protagonist.

A crucial aspect of creating a real character is his interactions with the other characters in the story, and his reactions to external influences.

These reactions to external surroundings or occurrences add layers to your protagonist.

To be able to write with this type of clarity and dimension for your protagonist, you need to know every detail of your protagonist's character.

Even if you learn tidbits here and there as the story progresses, those new bits and pieces of the characters traits will need to be remembered and possibly used again. An excellent way to keep track of your protagonist’s characteristics is to create a character sheet.

Using Character Sheets

In addition to the basic information, like physical characteristics, abilities, faults, family, and likes and dislikes, you need actions and reactions.

Make note on your character sheet of every reaction and interaction your character has with another character. As with actual life, we interact differently with different people in our lives.

A boy will not react to a friend the same way he does a brother. He will not react the same to a sister as he does a brother. The same holds true for all other relationships. All these different interactions help create a fully dimensional protagonist.

As you're creating your story's characters' dynamics, keep in mind that all characters play a part in creating a realistic story, even in fantasy and sci-fi.

This means that your protagonist needs a responsive partner or team member (character) when interacting, otherwise the interaction will feel one-sided and flat.

Create Character Continuity

In order to create a continuity of character traits for all characters, each character needs a character sheet.

While for some this may seem tedious, it is well worth the effort. You may be three quarters through the book and can't remember how character A interacted with character D.

You won't want to have to search through the story to find this little tidbit of information.

Also, keep in mind that each character will have his/her own motivation for actions and reactions. This is part of their character traits and should be listed on their character sheet.

Remember, every action, reaction and interaction created in your story will not only develop the protagonist, but also the other characters in the story.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Stranded Bear.” She also has a DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at: If you need help with your children’s story, visit:


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Linda Wilson said...

I agree that character sheets are essential, Karen. I make a diagram-type character sheet for each character, including the dog, cat, and important facets in the story such as a key and hidden door. The diagram consists of an arc so that I can see the progress each character makes, from beginning, the build up to climax, to denouement at the end. I think each character an arc, not just the main character. Thanks for your helpful post.

Karen Cioffi said...

Wow, Linda, your character sheets are involved! I should copy you! :)

deborah lyn said...

Wow Linda and Karen! Thank you both very much for your helpful guidance!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I just returned to a novel I began in 2005, and a character sheet would have been especially helpful to get back in the groove. I could also have used a timeline and a little genealogy tree, especially since much of my fiction in the past has been based on real family memories and this story is decidedly not about families I know that intimately...yet. Your article will indeed help! Thank you!
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson
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Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, that's wonderful that you've returned to a novel you started in 2005! Having a timeline and genealogy tree is a great idea. The more foundation, the better!

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