Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Operation Outline: Character Sheets Part Deux

To the pantsers of the blogosphere: I am sorry. Today I'm talking about outlining. Again. 

Please don't hit me. *cowers in a corner*

So last time, I mentioned Kody Keplinger's character sheet, which was pretty awesome. Now I want to show you something I'm doing for my current WIP. You see, I'm obsessed with character arcs. I LOVE seeing how someone goes from Point A to B in everything--books, movies, life. Because of this, I've started creating character arcs for all the key players in my WIP, but I went a step further. I've created relationship arcs.

It's important to get to know all your characters before you start working on how they get along with each other, and how their relationships will change throughout the manuscript. Sure, Kody's sheet works wonders for personalities and quirks, but I have a tip for you: go deeper.

Here's how I do it:

1) I start with Character A. He/she needs to be fully fleshed out before anyone else to me. In addition to Kody's personality sheet, I make a list of possible quotes he/she will say in the manuscript. That way, I get a feel for who he/she is directly from their head. I also come up with a short list of fears and flaws, which will come in handy later on in my outline breakdown.

2) I move on to the supporting cast. Everyone gets a personality sheet, but they also get the quote treatment, and the fears/flaws list. You'd be surprised how easy this can be after you've finished with the main character.

3) I go back to Character A and start pairing him/her up with Character B. This becomes my first relationship arc. What do I use here? The fears/flaws list of both characters. If Character A is scared stupid of being humiliated in public, and Character B doesn't get fazed by that kind of stuff, then how can B teach A to get over his/her fear? Or maybe B sucks at opening up to his loved ones, and A rocks at being honest--how can A help B let loose whenever he/she needs to vent? 

Another thing I find helpful is focusing on what Character A wants and how Character B won't let him/her get it. This works well with the hero/villain arc, but I think every character should want something that will force them out of their comfort zone. That's the only way real change will occur. 

Bottom line? Don't be afraid to go deeper. Yes, tons of writers create richly detailed settings and rock at descriptions, but relationship arcs should be just as rich. The key to making that happen is analyzing who the characters are, what they can/can't do for themselves and for each other, and how they'll change.

So there you have it: I've gone insane. Hopefully I'll have a pretty decent manuscript to show for it someday :)

Tell me: any tips you care to share with me? 


  1. Wow, that's a great blog. You can come out of the corner now because I want to shake your hand. These points people should use when writing.


  2. I always mean to sit down and write an outline about my characters and yet I get distracted by blog about outlining and twitter and never get around to doing the outlining.

  3. Amparo, your books are going to rock! I love the way you boiled down how to do a relationship arc to fears and overcoming them. I'm thinking of Peeta/Gale/Katniss. A good character arc needs relationships.

    Great post!

    Oh, and since you like a snarky voice, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you I just started reading one: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade. You'll like it.

  4. I am bookmarking this page for future reference. And I can't wait for your book to come out!! Eeek! You must marvel me with your genius in print!! MARVEL ME!

  5. Absolutey! Relationships are key because each person, friend etc. must mirror or clash with the main character. At least I am not the only who does so much outlining : )

  6. Great tips!I also try to make my character start at one point in the beginning and have them end at the opposite at the end to keep my plot moving. It makes it easier for me to outline. =)

  7. I am in awe of your outlining skills. I have none. I did do a bit of potting last night though for the WIP *eeek* it was scary.:)

  8. Ack. I'm a pantser but I really like your method, and am really wanting to try it like that. I am kinda stuck right now on my current WIP (I have it half done and the ending done. And I know how to get there) I'm just not sure how to write it? If that makes sense. So you have converted me. I'll tell you how it goes!

  9. Oooh my goodness that's so fabulously detailed and focused and disciplined! I was going to add index cards helps too but I made the mistake of having far too many and kept adding more bits of the character that I just got lost and tried to do a flow chart instead and that just got too complicated! LOL!!

    As for tips - erm.. I look to you for tips! LOL!

    GOOD LUCK!! Your book is so going to rock!!
    Take care

  10. *sigh* yeah (cowers in pantser corner)-- you're going to totally rock your WIP's with this!