Happy Friday, freewriters! We made it through a fantastic week of geek, so why not top it off with an exercise in tribute to our favorite fandom stories. I’m talking about heroes, of course. Every good series has a solid hero or set of heroes who undertake impossible-seeming tasks. Amy did a lot of research for her novel and gave me her favorite outline for a character sketch.
What’s a character sketch? It’s basically a master outline of the details and character traits important to your character. While writing longer pieces, it can be confusing to remember Are his eyes green or blue? Is she taller than her nemesis? Character sketches are much easier to refer back to than scanning through 20 or 50 pages you’ve already written to clear up the details. Sketches are also a great way to track your character development before your story really takes off.
I remember my first sketch in college- Dr. Levine had us write absolutely everything down and encouraged us to make changes as our stories changed. My character was a creepy woodshop teacher who watched students and later carved figurines in their likeness. Getting the creepy vibe was something I wasn’t familiar with, so reading through a profile or sketch was an easy way to add some villain points without needing to change huge portions of my story. Pickle sandwiches for lunch? Check.
So without further ado, here is a character sketch for a new character, a hero. I’ve been reading a lot of Rick Riordan this week, so I instinctively want to imbue everyone with super powers and resistance to fire and extreme temperatures, but I’m going to show some restraint (for once). If you complete your hero and want more, try adding a best friend or sidekick, a villain, and even a sketch of a conflict. Those pieces are a great way to start mapping out the arc of a story. This one’s for you, Dr. Levine!
Name: Rune Hadley
Role in story: Hero!
- age, height, weight, hair, skin, physique- 26, 6’0, 180 lbs, choclate brown hair, pale-skinned, gangly
- facial features- beard, generous mouth, blushes easily, light brown eyes
- clothing- tailored jeans, Converse sneakers, graphic tees, flannel shirts
- grooming- well-trimmed beard, shirt usually untucked, clean fingernails
- distinguishing features or habits, mannerisms- mimics facial features he sees on the sly, agonizes over decisions big and small, bounces on the balls of his feet or paces when he’s thinking
- upon close inspection- his beard has a little bit of red in it
- voice- deepish (tenor)
- fragrance- laundry detergent, boy soap, beard oil
What other people notice about her/him
- first- yes, that’s a beard
- second- his eyes reflect constellations in the moonlight
- ethnicity- Irish, German
- education- dropped out of a Masters program
- religion- raised in a small Protestant church, now a pragmatic- believes what he sees
- occupation, work experience- has worked at a small observatory until recently, very good at constellation location, lore, and recall
- personal experience- owns a telescope at home, has drawn star charts every week and mailed them to someone, doesn’t have a love interest
- sexuality- straight
- residence- small apartment in a trendy neighborhood with hardwood floors
- strongest (or dominant) trait- natural leader, good with people in small doses
- weakest (or latent) trait-reading social cues
- philosophy- Let’s talk this out.
- politics- liberal, as it relates to funding of astronomy programs and education
- interests- camping, swimming, solving problems, word puzzles
- vital secret- older sister is hospitalized
Significant event that molded the character’s personality: Older sister is hospitalized, big secret that drives a fear of being like her and a need to protect her
Is the reader likely to have stereotypical expectations about this character? Straight white male? Absolutely. People will assume he feels entitled, especially because he often misreads social cues and dominates a conversation.
- How does the character defy the stereotype? Very apologetic when he does notice he’s being a snob, also a very good listener.
- How does he conform to the stereotype? Often catches himself just after committing a faux pas.
- best friend- Kahlen Sorley (25)
- other friends- Walden Ott (55)
- family- sister Emma Hadley (28)
- enemies- Luca Kerr (26)
Essence of the character
- core need(s)- to logically solve things, to see with his own eyes, to learn
- ambition in life- Unsure.
- what character does alone- Reads. Plays with phone. Draws star charts.
- will reader like or dislike the character and why- If the story opens with more outer dialogue than inner dialogue, it’s quite possible he will be disliked. If the story starts with more inner dialogue, reader will better understand him.
- Does the character change in the story? How? Yes. Starts toeing the line between pragmatic and having faith (in other people, in things he can’t see, etc.)
- How does the character grow?
- What does the character learn? People can be trusted and depended on. Things exist which can’t be explained.
- What does the character want?
- abstract- to fit somewhere
- concrete- to figure out what he saw at the observatory before being fired
- Does character have intermediate goals?
- What could prevent the character from achieving her objectives?
- internal conflicts- Why bother going back there at all since he was fired?
- external conflicts- Luca. Observatory rules. Unemployment/need for money. Masters program drop-out fallout.
- If the story were principally about this character what would that story line be? Story opens shortly after Rune is fired. Uneasy about it, trying to shake it off, wondering what he saw. Sets stage as he meets with Kahlen, more backstory set (does she know about Emma?). Acts cagey around Walden, former co-worker. Run-in with Luca at a party. All while flashing back in pieces to what Rune saw. Breaks in (?) to observatory to figure more out, finds something important that jolts the rest of his memories to the forefront.
- Describe the character’s story in three acts:
- beginning- disoriented, trying to find even footing in life which has recently turned upside-down
- middle- finding clues, expanding social circles
- end- discovers his part in what happened at the observatory, ramifications for future it has, discovers something about he and his sister.
Freestyle description of the character.
In the character’s own words: something the character says which is illustrative of her/his self-perception. I know I talk too much, and no one’s really interested in stars and constellations anymore, but talking shop doesn’t seem so awful when it’s something as interesting as why the night sky has always been so important to people (in the past, anyway). Sometimes I think if I could just smack some wonder into people, they’d get it. But then I remember where I am. Here at this party, droning on and on (on autopilot now, what a handy skill) while people find reasons to escape me for another drink or ten to drown me out. Great, now I’m Captain Asshole again. I’m going to run out of places I can show my face pretty soon.
Lit & Love,