Website Review: 

Getting to Know All About You:

Web Sites for Character Building

By Carter Nipper
2005,
Carter Nipper

 

Good characters are the heart of a good story, regardless of length.  Unfortunately, building good characters is difficult and time-consuming.  The task can sometimes seem overwhelming, especially for lazier writers like me.  Fortunately, help is available.  This review examines four web sites that offer tools you can use to create three-dimensional characters who come alive on the page.

Character Building Workshop at Writers' Village University

http://writersvillage.com/character/

This is a free workshop that offers an in-depth evaluation of a character's personality using sixteen personality types paired with sixteen corresponding character disorders.  This combination gives you a character with built-in flaws and conflicts that arise naturally from the character's personality.

To determine your character's personality type, the workshop offers three "Character Tests."  Test 1 and Test 2 present you with twenty and thirty questions, respectively, that give two options (A and B) for ways that your character would respond to certain situations.  Test 3 then offers 210 questions to which you answer "Yes," "No," or "Maybe."  The three test scores together determine the particular personality of your character.  You will often be given two choices, so you can decide which one is the best fit for your story.

The tools in this workshop are closely based on standard psychological diagnostic tools, so they can give you some very good insights into your character's personality.  The questions also force you to reflect hard on the ways your character thinks and acts.

Fiction Writer's Character Chart at Eclectics.com

http://www.eclectics.com/articles/character.html

Character Trait Chart and Personality Components at Inspiration for Writers

http://tritt.wirefire.com/tip8.html

These two pages are very much alike, yet also different.  They both offer charts for you to fill out that define your character more clearly, but each chart includes elements the other does not.  For instance, the chart at Ecelectics.com gives you a link to Astrology.com, where you can generate a free astrological chart for your character.  The chart at Inspiration for Writers, on the other hand, asks you to think about what your character smells like.  Both charts also offer the usual questions about physical appearance, habits, fears, and likes and dislikes.  By combining the two charts, you can come up with a character-building chart that suits your own particular tastes.

Character Personality Chart at Action ~ Cut ~ Print!

http://www.actioncutprint.com/chart.html

Although I saved this site for last, it is certainly not the least useful or interesting of the four.  Action ~ Cut ~ Print! is a free ezine for movie and television directors and offers the  "Character Personality Chart," a quick visual reference to the spectrum of character types.  The chart is laid out in a diamond shape.  At the top is "Unstable," on the left-hand side is "Introverted," on the right is "Extroverted," and at the bottom is "Stable."  These four cardinal points are linked by adjectives describing a character type.  For example, an introverted stable character is described as even-tempered, thoughtful, controlled, peaceful, carefree, reliable, passive, and calm.  I find this site to be an excellent resource for brainstorming potential characters.

Used together, these four web sites can help you quickly generate a character profile that is also complete and insightful.  My particular method is to first use the "Character Personality Chart" to get a quick overview of the character, then get specific ideas using the two character trait charts.  Finally, I do an in-depth personality profile using the Character Building Workshop.  Using these tools, you can create complete, "real" characters that you know intimately and who will come alive for the readers.