Many might ask the point in having an actual sheet or document describing the pro/antagonist. This helps bring the character to life for the reader, focuses your thoughts as to who the character is, and is a useful tool in fleshing out the character. It also helps when you’re “right in the middle of something” and you can’t remember what you wanted your figment of your imagination to be– at the time.
Everything else being equal, the more information you create the better. Now that said, some details will never make it into the story and that’s okay. Your reader will never see the sheet anyway. Certainly not unless you show it to them. Another point to note is that especially after you create a “standard” blank character sheet (they’re so much easier as a starting point), it’s okay to leave some items “Unknown”, “Irrelevant”, or “TBD” (to be determined (later)).
How much effort SHOULD you place into a character sheet? To save your time (and perspiration), let me ask you this– how central is the character to the story? For your primary hero/heroine, you’ll probably start with no less than a half-sheet and eventually work into a whole sheet or more. At the other end of the spectrum, a story that I’m still working on has “less than half sheets”. It’s just simply a listing of the character’s name and the “hook” or detail that I want or need to remember (the town bartender, for example).
What goes into a character sheet (other than name/height/weight/hair and eye color, etc.)? What are the character’s likes and dislikes? What social groups or hobbies does he she have? Who is his or her employer? What is his or her faith (if any)? What special talents does he or she have (harmonica, plays chess really well, auto mechanic in his/her spare time, etc.)? What makes him or her tick? As an example, I will paste an existing character sheet out of my drawer…..
Name: Cecil Rougher (Becker), Magistrate of Beckersville
Hair/Eye Color: Black/Brown
Education Level and Origin: 12th grade (or equivelant?)
Occupation: Career Politician who never really made it
Past Occupation(s): Politician, Soldier
Political Leanings: Pro-Goverment
Religion/Faith (if any): none
Weapons Skill (if any): Spear and Shield
Favorite (and why):
Time of Day:
UNfavorite (and why):
Employed By: Capital Government
Boss: ? But he needs one here…..
Pets/Sidekicks (if any):
Weapon (if any): Mace/Dagger
Talents (whistling, guitar, etc.): Fights Florentine (Two maces and no Shield)
Possessions: Two maces, suit of chain mail, Magistrate’s garb
This sheet is only an example. As you can see, many of the entries are left blank. I haven’t written enough of the story to need to fill them in yet, and this is only one of the more minor antagonists in the story. You can get as creative (color coded if you like) or as simple as you wish. The important thing is to make your characters MEMORABLE. Anyone can write about a hero who lets a good person die. Detailing not just why the good person had to die (to save hundreds/millions of other innocent lives) but how the hero came to the conclusion that an innocent person had to die, how he/she felt about the event, and how the event changed him or her, now THAT is what makes characters become real– or at least seem so. And that is what keeps readers engaged and coming back.