Character Checklists | Fill One Out for Every Character in Your Book

Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel about caregiving and ALS. Her short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Awards. Her fiction has won Gold and Silver Medals from Readers' Favorites International Book Awards, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, and many others.

Character checklists can help you keep track of the people in your novel. Using character checklists gives you a systematic way to explore the wants, needs, and personality traits of all your people, not just the ones onstage at the moment.

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As part of your prewriting exercises, create character checklists for each major character in your book. Find pictures to keep your characters’ physical appearances clear in your mind. Image from Pixabay via ijmaki

In the prewriting stage, I use the questionnaire below to help me get to know my characters. I put the responses in a binder and add to them as I write my way to the end.

Let me also stress that it’s also important to know the motivations, backgrounds, and goals of the secondary characters. You’ll also need to understand the psychology and goals of the villain.

Character checklists can help you stay consistent throughout the writing of the book. You’ll understand your characters’ goals, dreams, self-doubts, and speech patterns, and you’ll be able to “see” them.

I’ve saved this web pages as Word document so that you can type in your responses. To get the Word document, click here.

If you’d like this article, plus more info, download CREATING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS.

Character Checklists and Identifying Info

  1. What is this person’s name?
  2. How old is s/he, and what does s/he look like? How does s/he feel about her/his age and appearance?
  3. Can you find a visual image of your character in a magazine, history book, or social media site? (Put that in your binder, too.)
  4. What is the character’s birthday and astrological sign? How does s/he feel if someone forgets a birthday?
  5. Where does the character stand in the family’s birth order?
  6. Are the character’s parents alive or dead? How about siblings, grandparents, godparents, aunts and