This I believe: Most of what goes into character sheets should never appear in the book. A lot of what goes into character sheets has no relevance to the character’s attitudes or actions in the book. Some of what goes into character sheets will change as you write.
So why would I ever make character sheets?
1.) To stall. If you can’t start writing until you have your character sheets done, and you take a long time to do the character sheets, you can put off starting almost indefinitely. Mind you, this is not a good reason. In fact, this reason is the reason I start writing before I do my character sheets.
2.) To learn more about the character. How much do you need to know about your character? Some character worksheets I’ve seen are so detailed, they’re like Was his/her favorite uncle left-handed or right-handed? Seriously? This is important why? Still, knowing some of the underpinnings of a character can enrich your portrayal, even if you don’t use most of what you learn.
3.) To get plot ideas. Hey, wait a minute! What if it is important which hand his/her favorite uncle used? Why would that be important? Cool! scribble scribble
4.) To learn what your character is not like. The one time I tried making character sheets before I started the book, I was like, This character smokes. And the character was like, No, I don’t. And I was like, This character doesn’t smoke, this other character smokes. And that character was like, Like a chimney. Useful.
5.) To learn how your character sounds. My favorite part of character building is to ask the character ten questions to which I know the answers, and then ten questions to which I don’t know the answers, and write stream-of-consciousness answers to the second ten. Next week I’ll post some I’ve found illuminating.
What do you think about character sheets? If you like them, check out this Character Sheet Generator, including the comments, this Character Chart, this post on Using Character Sheets, and this search I did which turned up those links and more.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Think of ten questions to ask your main character to which you don’t know the answer.