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Character Sketches and Why You Need Them

March 6, 2019– Character sketches are essential to writing because characters are the people in your book that your readers care about the most! If you don’t have a strong, character-driven story, chances are that people won’t continue to read your work. While writing, authors try and develop characters that readers can relate to. We want characters with real-world struggles of the human condition that intertwine us and make us comrades in this life. As readers, we want to look at a character and see parts of ourselves.

So what exactly is a character sketch? A character sketch is simply writing down everything that you need to know about a character from what their favourite food is to what motivates them. It may sound silly, but I always encourage my authors to write down absolutely EVERYTHING about their characters even the stuff that won’t make it into the book, because knowing their character intimately allows their quirks and personality traits to bleed into their writing. For example, Jenna may hate spaghetti, but the reason behind it may be because it was her abusive ex-husband’s favourite dish.

Let’s elaborate and use Jenna as a character sketch:

  1.  32 years old
  2. divorced
  3. no children but two pit bull dogs
  4. Aquarius
  5. loves old movies
  6. hates spaghetti
  7. favourite food is roast beef
  8. tall 5’8
  9. brown eyes and blonde hair from a bottle
  10. second born of three children (Older brother, her, younger brother)
  11. parents are dead
  12. biggest fear is being alone
  13. listens to opera music but only while in the shower
  14. a non-reader other than gossip rags
  15. spare time is used to scour antique shops
  16. mid-level income
  17. American Italian
  18. biggest goal in her life is to find true love after four failed attempts

I think that’s enough examples and you guys get the point! So, where does this information come in handy? Let’s use this to create a scene.

Jenna threw her keys into the dish on the counter. She scoured her brother’s almost bare fridge for anything edible but the only thing left was day-old spaghetti. She chucked the pasta in the trash with such force that the container burst open and some noodles stuck to the wall. Memories of her cheating ex-husband came barrelling to the surface as she held back tears. It was his favourite meal and the first meal they shared as husband and wife. The cold, stringy pasta was a horrible reminder of the man who betrayed her trust and slept with her best friend.

How in the world did we get all of this from spaghetti? See what I mean? This was going out on a ledge, but we must remember that people have their reasons for everything that they do or don’t do. They don’t do, or like, or hate things for no reason, there is always an explanation.

So, I hope you’ll take the time to sketch your characters! It will make a world of difference in your writing. X LLB

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