Nov. 17th, 2014:
The Fostarian Character Sheet
While writing Apprentice my brilliant little sister suggested I fill out a questionnaire about my main characters. So I asked almighty Google and found one that was over 100 questions long. It had all kinds of stuff ranging from physical characteristics like height, weight to deeper things like most traumatic childhood memory, greatest victory, primary goal in life, and so forth. Completing this massive sheet was helpful, enlightening even, and helped me enhance my characters. I also decided it was definitely overkill. Ergo, I created my own, a slimmer, more efficient version that I believe sufficiently encapsulates a fictional character's psyche. Each question is intentionally broad, allowing for a wide range of interpretations.
1: The 9 Personality Types (as defined here)
I got a crash course in this theory from Jacky Hobbs while here in Lanzhou. I think its the best theory on categorizing the human mind.
What roles does this character play? This is usually defined with job titles but also applies to whatever groups or societies the character is in. Also, define the roles within the literary story; is this character a protagonist, antagonist, support, background, henchman, etc.
3: Nature and Demeanor
I got this from the White Wolf gaming systems. Nature is what your character is at heart, demeanor is the face s/he shows the world. I always found it interesting that both traits are chosen from the same list. IE: survivor, loner, visionary, care-giver, clown, leader, etc. The difference between these two is quite important, showing what your character chooses to hide/reveal to the world.
4: Strengths and Weaknesses
What is the character good at? What is the character bad at? Despite the broad question the answers must be specific.
5: Motivations and Fears
What drives your character? What goals does s/he have? Or does the s/he not really know? What is your character afraid of and specifically how does this affect his or her goals? These kinds of internal conflicts are key and may change from chapter to chapter as plots twist and characters evolve.
What is/was your character's family like? Are there any especially important family members? Does the eldest daughter resent her father for leaving and dumping the responsibility on her? Does the only son feel the pressure of having to succeed in the shadow of a domineering father? Does someone have a twin they never knew of?
Everyone has a past. Write down as much history as you can. At least come up with a handful of life defining events, good and bad. Start with childhood, family, siblings, elementary school. What happened during the chaotic teenage years? How did the character navigate the tempest of high school? Did s/he go on to college? Get a job? Get married? Have kids? Or did he have a friend in 4th grade he played pogs with, and those little coins became an obsession that no one else understood?