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Monday, January 26, 2009

Characterization Checklist for Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

First of all, I use a Character Sketch form at the beginning before I even start writing the story. I need to know my main characters so I fill out a detailed form on the hero and heroine. For sub-characters and one-scene characters, I fill out a much shorter form or list the pertinent info on them in a paragraph in my notes. This helps me not to forget specific details as I plow through the story and six months later go back to the beginning to edit. It's also helpful if you have to stop working on one manuscript to work on another to meet a deadline. 

The checklist below is meant as a guideline through your editing process to make sure your characters are consistent with their behavior, growth development, speech patterns, and to make sure you don't alter their physical traits where and when you aren't supposed to.

Name of Character _______________________


  • Are his/her physical traits consistent throughout the chapter? Review hair color, eye color, unique facial marks, age, height, clothing. If necessary, use the search feature to help you find the right paragraphs.

  • Is his/her behavior appropriate to his/her personality, occupation and background?

  • In this chapter did you reveal any specific talents, flaws, personal goals, religion, hobbies or habits that would make this character deeper and more personal to the reader? Remember, if this character has any habits, it must be shown consistently whether in each scene or chapter, depending on the habit.
  • Are your character's internal thoughts appropriate to his/her personality and/or the situation? Do these thoughts show internal growth or change in how he/she sees the situation or the other main character or villain?

  • Does this character reveal emotion appropriate to his/her personality and situation?

  • Does this character experience senses in this chapter such as seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling?

  • Is the character's dialogue appropriate for his/her age, country of origin, education, gender, and personality? To the situation? To the reaction of another character's behavior?


    Hi Jennifer -

    I have a difficult time with any kind of outline. Pantser all the way!

    One thing that caught my eye in your post was jotting down some revealed character flaw or strength. Hmm, you might reform me yet to outlining. LOL!

    BTW, I added you to my blogroll. :)


    That's a great tip. I think I'm going to use this right now for a character that's causing me a bit of trouble.

    I have several characters in this one book who all sound just like me...not sure why I'm having such a tough time with them.


    Thank you Jennifer! I never which blog to use for my comments. Ha. I appreciate your encouragement. I'm grateful for God's mercies that are NEW each morning!

    God bless you today!


    I love this--but I admit I have never done an outline but then get stuck inthe middle remembering. I guess I should/

    Susan, I used to be a panster, but I began to find great value in plotting and outlining after I got an agent and had to start switching from one manuscript to another. It's hard to remember where you were and what you were doing when you go back to a manuscript 6-12 months later.

    Thank you for adding me to your blogroll. I'll add you to mine as well. Thank you for considering me.


    I do the same thing. Sometimes all my subcharacters sound alike. I hope this will be helpful to you.


    Your post touched me and made me see how "real" you are. Thanks for sharing such an important aspect of your life.


    Before I starting outlining and plotting beforehand, my manuscripts suffered from the dreaded sagging middle syndrome. Planning ahead helps me forge right through it without it being so boring.