Character sheets

I have a real hate-on for character sheets this morning. I mean, what’s the point of all this inane babble? Likes and dislikes? Hobbies? Who cares? I care about what the character is like as a person, how they act in extreme situations, how they act in everyday situations, what they value, how they feel, how they think, what kind of people they hang out with, where their hard limits are, how they function in society… what they’re actually like. Who cares if their favorite color is red or their favorite ice cream is sea-salt caramel?

I’m staring at a sheet, blank except for a name and a filled-out personality section, meant to be describing a secondary character. I couldn’t even fill this out for myself. What would you put for yourself under “likes” and “dislikes”?

Disclaimer: this is part of the writing process, I don’t actually hate detailed character sheets, I’m just frusturated.

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9 Responses to Character sheets

  1. Firedrake says:

    I’m a gamer more than a writer, so “character sheet” means something a bit different to me. But when I’m trying to get a minor character together, I think first about the things that are going to be obvious, and trace back from there. How does this person look, and dress? What style of speech? Do these things have a common root in his/her personality, and if so what is it? What else might flow from that root?

    As for likes and dislikes, I’ll use myself as an example: if I’m standing around waiting for a train, I’ll probably be reading a book (paper or electronic) rather than playing games on my phone or listening to music. If I’m sitting in a pub waiting for people, I’ll probably have a laptop out rather than a phone or tablet. I generally wear fewer clothes than the people around me, especially in cold weather, because I overheat easily. All of these things have immediate impacts on the narration around me, much more than favourite colours (which I don’t have) or ice-creams (my girlfriend’s home-made double-cream vanilla).

    Does this help?

    • yamikuronue says:

      I game as well, which is why I thought “oh, I’ll throw together a character sheet for everyone in the novel, that’ll help with organization!”. For inspiration I turned to a number of free-form forum games that do sheets…. yeah no.

      The kind of stuff you’re talking about is exactly the kind of stuff I care about, you know? But I’m not sure it fits into neat little boxes so much as “this is information about myself” 😐 I mean, usually you see stuff like “Likes: books, computers, cold weather. Dislikes: Being too hot, writing character sheets” and it’s like, what does that tell me about the person?

      • Firedrake says:

        I am the anti-freeformer – my system of choice is GURPS. 🙂

        What’s worked best for me is to use a situational approach tailored by the sort of game I’m planning to run – how does this person act/react if she’s in a bar and a fight breaks out, or when his well-meaning sister sets him up with yet another potential mate? Once I’ve answered a few questions like that I start to get a handle on the character, and then I can start looking at broad categories like “likes” and “hobbies” and filling in the blanks.

  2. Vividhunter says:

    Dude, I agree whole heartedly! Sometimes I feel that character sheets actually kill my character building momentum. I do, however, like Lajos Egri structure of a character, and find using him a good way to delve deeper than I might have otherwise – but dammit, sometimes I just want to get in there and write without thinking about their relationship with their mother!

    • yamikuronue says:

      I hear you on the diving in thing. I usually am a pantser rather than a planner, but my newest project is of a massively larger scope than I’m used to, so I’m trying to get some thoughts organized on paper before I begin writing.

  3. Flutterguy says:

    See, this is why I leave the characters to you while I just play around with maps. That’s the fun part XD.

    Though likes and dislikes can add a few nuances to a character should they come up in the course of the plot.

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