Her Brown Eyes turned Blue on page 152 Part 1 character charts

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

As a pantster I don’t outline and plot much. Which can leave me forgetting the name of a character or changing their brown eyes to blue. Brown eyes can never be sapphire or blue eyes chocolate. And discovering that I’ve changed the color farther into my manuscript makes for tedious edits.

Two things I do to keep my characters’ appearance consistent

I create an excel spreadsheet with the physical appearances of each character. Column headings are name, occupation, eye color, hair color, height, and distinguishing marks (scars etc.) I keep it open and can easily refer to it as I craft my story. In the midst of creativity, my mind blanks on names or other details. The spreadsheet keeps me from needing to edit these errors later.

The second thing I do before I start the story is fill out a character sheet. It contains more details than the spreadsheet. The sheet helps me go into deeper details regarding my character. This is the place where their backstory can take shape.

There are a variety of character sheets available online. You can use one of those or create your own.

Here is the basic information you want to have to keep your description straight:

Name and nickname (if there is one)

Sex

 Age

 Height, weight, and body type

 (pear- shaped, broad shouldered, curvy, six -pack, details that plant an image in the readers mind)

 Race

Complexion ( peaches and cream, ivory, bronze, caramel. freckled, dark, maybe add a few other adjectives here in your notes so you aren’t having another character see her skin as ivory when her mother already mentioned her ivory skin. Perhaps alabaster instead.) Under complexion you might note pimples, pock marks or dry skin.

Eye color- details about eyes shape, flecks of color in the iris, ie… brown eyes with gold flicks.

 Hair color- black can be raven, red can be carrot or auburn, blond is white, golden, strawberry blond, and brown can be mousy, dark, soft brown, and all of these colors can have natural highlights of red, blond or gray, even blue, purple or pink. Mention the style too. Is it long, cropped short, styled in a certain way? Fuzzy tips, freshly trimmed, in need of a haircut.

Photo I used for my hero Jed in Rescuing Her Heart
Photo by Thiago Schlemper on Pexels.com

Distinguishing marks such as birthmarks, scars, dimples, odd-shaped ear, broad nostrils.

Now you’ve got a very clear picture of what your characters looks like, and this will help you keep them in focus. And as you write, sprinkling in descriptions of your characters that are consistent.

If you like, find pictures of people who remind you of your characters and put them where you can see them when you write.

Now their brown eyes will no longer change to blue.

Now that I’ve covered the basic, in my next post I’ll share some deeper questions you can ask that will fill out your character and make it easier to add deeper POV as you create your story.

What details slip your mind in a creative moment?

Notice the picture to the right was my inspiration for Jed in Rescuing Her Heart.

A tip for keeping character details straight

 

character list word cloud

Keeping the details of your characters straight is easy wiht a character list

 

This past week I read a friend’s blog, and she mentioned whiles going through her story she found she’d changed the eye color of her character. I laughed. Then I found I’d changed a secondary character’s name after the first few chapters of my own WIP.  It’s easy to do when you’re a panster. Your writing is more organic, and you can forget some details in the creative moment.  I’ve started writing out character lists in a notebook and recently, after this recent name faux pas I rewrote it in Excel. Because there are times my notebook is on my desk and I’m writing sitting at the kitchen table.

Making the list

I know some of you out their chewing your nails at the thought of using Excel.

It’s so simple.

Open the template and add headings at the top.

Then fill in the column.

 

character list

Here is my list for my current WIP Note minor characters have less details.  This work has lots of minor characters because the story evolves around building a town.

 

My columns headings:

Name

Occupation

Hair hair and eye color

distinguishing physical feature

Their relationship to other characters i.e.. Someone’s mother or love interest.

A few friends keep more extensive lists based on backstory such as education and habits.

Make the list as detailed as you need to keep everything straight as you write.

I keep the excel sheet open on my laptop when I’m writing for easy reference.

If the idea of Excel still sounds too geeky for you organic types, you can create your own Word doc and categorize the characters to your liking.

If you prefer, create a hand-written page for your character that sits beside your computer or for those who are into retro—your typewriter.

Keep it handy

However you choose to create your character list keep it handy. You don’t want to kill off Jared in chapter 15 and he returns to deliver a message in chapter 32. (Unless of course it’s a ghost story.)  You want to be sure Serena’s blue eyes that glisten like sapphires when Juan first meets her don’t transform into chocolate orbs after he kisses her.

Note the different hair colors of my beautiful daughter. Make sure there is a reason your character has a hair color change.

If Juan has a scar, check your notes to be sure it doesn’t switch sides of his face.  Having the list handy will keep Serena’s waist length raven hair from morphing to blond for no logical reason by the books end.

Be professional

I’ve found these very errors in published work. A character named John was Joel. It was only one time, but it took me out of the story and nettled me for the rest of it. For the sake of future readers and to make your editor’s life easier and show the publisher you’re a professional keep a character sheet.

 

Do you have a character list? What do you put on it?

Creating Jake: My inspiration, Readers Imagination

Sam ElliottSam Elliott is the epitome of the cowboy persona he’s successfully portrayed for decades. He tops John Wayne in my book as best cowboy ever on the silver screen. His smoldering eyes and soft-spoken manner always make the womenfolk swoon. He is the basis for my hero in my novel Secrets and Charades. Although Jake’s hair is black he has the mustache and the persona of Sam.

I didn’t actually paste a picture up of Sam as I wrote. Many novelist have photos of their characters in their workspace. I’ve seen enough of his movies to sense how his cowboy characters would react. However, I’ve tempered that persona a bit because Jake is a man of faith. His faith plays an important role in how he interacts with his world, on the ranch, the cattle drive, in town. Jake is awkward around women while treating them with the utmost respect. Even the disagreeable ones won’t hear a mean word directed toward them.

He’s a hard-working, determined rancher with dark places in his past. Guilt pushes him to be a better man for his niece, his ranch hands and his mail-order bride. Can you envision Jake?

Tom Selleck john cusack

Because Secrets is historical, I can’t mention he looks like Sam Elliott. That would be so wrong. We are in the 1870’s and I want my reader to be there with me. My description might stir up an image of a different actor for the reader. Perhaps Tom Selleck or John Cusack or any number of your favs. Which is wonderful because as the reader you get to decide what he looks like.

Henry-Darrow Erik-Estrada

I wrote a very short description of Tony Sanchez. A secondary character and Jake’s ranch hand. My sister was totally enamored with him. “You described him perfectly.” My brief description of his Mexican heritage complete with black hat, silver head band and spurs gave her all the information she needed to visualize him. I had pictured Henry Darrow from an old TV series High Chaparral for Tony but she may have been thinking of Eric Estrada. (You know, the motorcycle cop from CHIPS.)

If the setting for a novel is contemporary, it’s easy to refer to a character as a Sam Elliott or Tom Selleck look-a-like. Although I have a friend whose reference to Medea got shot down by a publisher. Apparently, the publisher had no idea who the character Medea was and felt others would not. (I digress.)

Cowboys are the ultimate hero in American literature, even today with Science Fiction heroes traveling the galaxies. Think Hans Solo. The cowboy persona lives on. He rights wrongs, lives by a moral code and saves the ranch, the damsel and his horse with no thought for his personal safety.

If you were creating a cowboy character what actor would he resemble?

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