Strength Training for the Wimpy Character

In the magical world in my mind my characters are quirky, charming, and adorable.  You just want to make them some pancakes.  I imagine smelling their syrup-scented hair, and I am in love.

Alas, when I read them described in my own words, I see they look a little bit like this:
Children's Books

Oh dear.  Have I been under the illusion an illustrator would swoop in and bring my characters to life?  Even if the pictures are fantastic, kids won't care what happens in the story if they don't care who it happens to (as the old adage goes).

I have only just met my character too.   Perhaps I need to get to know her a little better by creating a character biography or sketch.  So I asked myself a list of questions: How old is she? Where is she from? On an important day what color socks does she wear? What is her favorite song? What is her biggest fear?  Why would she earn a yellow ribbon in second grade?  What does she do in her spare time?  Does she prefer baseball or basketball and why?  What would she name a pet worm?

The initial questions aren't as important as the discussion and the thought process.  Once I got going, I couldn't stop!   Each answer made me think of another question.  (Does she have a sibling? - Yes.  A big brother perhaps.  She really looks up to him.  Why isn't he around more?.....)  After only 20 minutes of character sketching I had two pages of notes and plethora of new questions to imagine answers to. Most of the answers will never leave my notebook, but I am really getting to know my character.   Plus, the process spun off a few new themes I would like to explore in a series.

It is so nice to meet you new character!  I can't wait to see what a beautiful young lady you grow up to be.

Check out these places to find more questions to build your character biography.

Do you have a favorite question you include in your character sketch?  Please share it in the comments.


  1. Excellent post and references on character development. Thanks! I like to ask my character what is the one thing he/she wants most in life (or is trying to attain) and why is it so important to him/her? What are their strengths and weaknesses...

    But I, too, have this picture in my mind what who my character is and yes, after re-reading my story, it does look like your stick figure :o)

    1. Ooh I like that question! I am adding it to my list right now.


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