(Live from LDStoryMakers) A Post from Brandon Sanderson’s Master Class

Written By: Jess - Apr• 26•14

Hi everyone. This is a quick (but long) post. During Brandon Sanderson’s master class at LDStorymakers he asked what character dossier people used. “The EPIGUIDE.COM Character Chart for Fiction Writers”  by Kira Lerner and Toni Walker is the one I like to fill out to better understand my major characters. I’ve tweaked and reorganized it for me and I’m sharing my version below.

 

BTW, I feel the urge to warn you that if you plan on printing this out with 12 point font and double spaces, plan on it being a minimum of 13 pages.

 

My version of Kira Lerner and Toni Walker’s Character Dossier:

 


 

NAME

Character’s Full Name:

Name Origin:

Nickname, if any and origin:

Do they like the nickname:

 

BASICS

            DOB & Age:

            Place of Birth:

            Ethnic Background:

            Religion:

            Degree of religious practice (orthodox, casual, lapsed):

 

APPEARANCE

            Hair (color, natural/unnatural, length, style & texture):

            Eyes (shape, color, glasses/contacts/any):

            Face Shape (round, oval, chubby, thin, long, square, heart-shaped, etc.):

            Skin tone (pale, ivory, tan, olive, ruddy, brown, etc.):

            Height & Body Type (thin, athletic, overweight, curvy, muscular, etc.):

            Hearing (average, deaf, better than average, hearing aid?):

            Any prominent features, freckles/moles/scars/tattoos or other distinguishing marks:

            Do they looking like anyone in their family or a famous person? Which parent do they take after:

            General Health:

            Any current health problems or chronic conditions:

CLOTHING/JEWELRY/GROOMING

            How do they dress (expensive/inexpensive/cheap/average):

            Style (trendy/haute couture/conservative/eclectic/business/sexy/gaudy/casual/sloppy):

            Why do they dress in the above manner:

            Any special jewelry:

            Grooming (fastidious/very neat/average/clean buy scruffy/dirty/unkempt)? Why?

 

SPEECH & LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION

            Pace of speech (fast, average, slow?):

            Voice tone (shrill, high, average, deep, squeaky, hoarse, harsh, authoritative, cultured, etc.):

            Accent/dialect, if any:

            Any favorite/habitual words/phrases? Curse words?

            Describe general vocabulary or speech pattern (e.g. educated, precise, pretentious, average, uneducated, vulgar…):

            Mannerisms/Demeanor (Cool/confident, Volatile, Nervous/Shy, Aggressive, Friendly, Remote, Other):

            Typical Posture (Stiff, Stands straight but not stiffly, Average, Slumped/defeated, Relaxed, etc.):

            Gestures (Rarely, Controlled, When excited, most of the time, wildly/oddly, other):

            Common/Habitual Gestures (nail-biting, hair patting, drumming fingers, clenched fists, hands in pockets, etc.):

 

EVERYDAY BEHAVIOR / HABITS:

            Finances: (prudent/cautious, some debt, lives paycheck to paycheck, deep in debt, criminal activity, etc.):

            Personal Habits: Smoking, Drinking, Drugs, Gambling, etc.? Are any of these addictions?

            Morning Routine: Who else is sleeping in the same bed? What time do they wake up? Are they cheerful in the morning?  What do they do during breakfast-read, watch tv, feed kids, etc.:

            Afternoon/Workday: How do they get there? Are they good at this job? What, if anything, would they rather be doing? How long and hard is the work day? If the job isn’t outside the home, what does a typical afternoon consist of?:

            Dinner: Do they eat at home or go out a lot? What is their favorite restaurant(s)? Who cooks at home? Do they eat alone? 

            Evening: What do they do on a typical evening? Where? With whom? How much do they enjoy it? What is the ideal evening for them?

            Sleep Habits:  Fall asleep easily, or an insomniac? Any recurring dreams? Sleep soundly, or toss & turn?

            Any special talents? Skills?

            What is s/he particularly unskilled at?

            Any hobbies (sports, games, arts, collecting, etc.)?

 

HOME, CAR & PETS

            HOME

            Current address:

            Do they rent or own?

            Brief description of home (apartment/house/etc.):

            Do they live with anyone?

            Describe the area in which s/he lives (city, town, rural, other):

            Is this his/her ideal home and location? If not, what would s/he prefer?

            What is the Home décor like?

            CAR

            Do they drive? Own a car? (Make, model, color, age, etc.):

            PETS

            Pets?  (If so, what kind/how many/names?)

            If so, how important are they? How well are they treated?

 

JOB, SEXUALITY, FAMILY

            JOB

            Current occupation (include length of time, location, job title):

            Job satisfaction (happy, discontent, ambivalent, ambitious…):

            Income:

            Future Career Plans?

SEXUALITY & FAMILY

            Sexuality (e.g. straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, uncertain…):

            Marital status:

            If married or currently romantically involved, with whom, and for how long? 

            List any significant previous romantic partners:

            For current spouse/partner, what does the character call him/her (pet names, nicknames, etc.?):

            How did they meet?

            Any children (include names, ages, other parent if different from any current partner):

            Describe his/her relationship with children (if any):

 

FAMILY OF ORIGIN:

Mother’s Name (include maiden name if known/applicable):

            Current status:  __ living __ deceased   (If alive, enter age: )

            Mother’s occupation, if any:

            Describe the mother’s relationship with character:

Father’s name:

            Current status:  __ living __ deceased   (If alive, enter age: )

            Father’s occupation, if any:

            Describe the father’s relationship with character:

            Any step-parents, foster parents, or birth parents (if not same as above):

            Are they adopted, do they know? If not, why?

Sibling(s) (include age and birth order relative to main character):

            Relationship(s) with character:

            Nieces/Nephews:

            In-Laws, if any:

            Other than the above, who else in the story is part of their extended family (e.g. cousins, etc.)?

 

THE PAST:

            Home town (if different from current home):

            Was his/her childhood happy? Troubled? Dull?  Does the character remember it accurately?

            Earliest memory:

            Happiest memory:

            Saddest memory:

            How much school did s/he attend, if any? Did/does s/he like school? Why or why not?:

            Most significant childhood event:

            Other significant childhood events:

            Significant past jobs:

                        Police record (explain any convictions, sentence served, where/when):

            First crush/romantic love?

            What was his/her first sexual experience?  Is it a positive or negative memory?

            Major illnesses, accidents or traumas? How are they still affected, if at all?

 

RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS:

            Who is their best friend?

            Who are their other close friends?

            How in general does the character relate to friends?

            … to strangers?

            … to spouse/Lover?

            … to past spouses/lovers?

            … to own children, if any?

            … to other family members?

            … to the same sex?

            … to the opposite sex?

            … to children in general?

            … to others who are more successful?

            … to others who are less successful?

            … to boss (if any)?

            … to underlings at work?

            … to competitors?

            … to authority (police, IRS, politicians, attorneys, doctors, etc.)?

            What do most people consider their most likable trait?

            What do most people consider their biggest flaw?

            Any secret attractions/crushes?

            In romantic relationships, is their generally monogamous or uncommitted? (If the latter, is their honest w/ partners?)

            Is their sexual behavior inhibited, average, experimental, or reckless? Has this changed (and if so, why)?

            Whom does their dislike most, and why?

            Whom does their like most, and why?

            Who’s the most important person in their life right now, and why?

            Whom does they secretly admire (nonromantic), and why?

            Who was their biggest influence, and why?

            Person they most misunderstands or misjudges:

            Person who most misunderstands or misjudges them:

            Have they lost touch with anyone significant in their life? If so, why?

            Worst end of a relationship (could be friend, romance, colleague…)?

            Whom do they most rely on for practical advice?

            Whom do they most rely on for emotional support?

            Whom, if anyone, do they support (e.g. advice or emotional support)?

 

MENTAL ATTITUDE/PERSONAL BELIEFS:

            Any psychological issues:

            Are they an optimist or pessimist:

            Personality (Color Code):

            They’re most comfortable when … (alone, hanging w/friends, drinking, etc.):

            They’re most uncomfortable when … (in a crowd, alone, speaking in public, etc.):

            They’re cautious, brave, or reckless in their approach to life?

            What do they most value/prioritize (family, money, success, religion, etc.)?

            Whom do they really love best?

            Whom or what would they be willing to die for?

            Are they generally compassionate or self-involved?

            Personal philosophy:

            What’s their most embarrassing moment?

            What’s their secret wish?

            What (or who) is their biggest fear?

            Any prejudices (race, culture, sexuality, religion, etc.)?

            Political party or beliefs, if any:

            Do they believe in fate or destiny? Are they superstitious?

            Character’s greatest strength:

            Other good characteristics: 

            Character’s greatest flaw:

            Other character flaws:

            What are their own favorite attributes (both physical and personal)?

            What about least favorite?

            Are these feelings accurate?

            How do they think others perceive them? (And is this accurate?)

            Biggest regret:

            Other regrets:

            Proudest accomplishment:

            Other accomplishments:

            Quirks:

            Character’s biggest secret(s)? Who else knows (if anyone)?

            How do they react to a crisis?

            What usually causes the problems in their life (romance, finances, friends, rivals, colleagues, personality flaws, health, etc.)?

            What would they most like to change about them self? Why?

            Write a paragraph (100 words) of the character describing them self:

            Short term goals:

            Long term goals:

            Do they plan to achieve these goals, or do they think they’re unrealistic?

            Will others be affected? If so, do they care?

            What if anything is stopping them from achieving these goals?

            What event or occurrence do they most dread or fear?

            What do they actively work to gain, keep or protect?

            Which person in their life would they most want to emulate?

            Which person in their life would they least want to emulate?

 

LIKES/FAVORITES:

            Food:

            Drink:

            Color:

            Book:

            Music/Song:

            Motto/Quotes:

            Film:

            Sport:

            Possession:

            TV Show:

            Hangout(s):

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