Getting to Know
All About You:
Web Sites for
By 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
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
Fiction Writer's Character Chart
Character Trait Chart and
Personality Components at
Inspiration for Writers
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!
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.