I am ten chapters into my new novella. Last night I was about to write "when he peered into her blue? green? brown? one of each color? eyes..." With so many heroes and heroines described in the past, I lose track. I started searching through folders of materials used years ago in a creative writing class, and there is was...the typed character profile form to jot down name, age, weight, height, color of hair, eyes, special features, friends, parents, etc. Even a space for activities/hobbies is provided. It's such a time saver to keep from thumbing through a steno pad full of notes, and my outlines are very scant. Sometimes I'm just a little slow in remembering tools to use to minimize mistakes about my characters. Just passing on the idea.
Each of my projects has its own notebook, used for plotting and brainstorming ideas. The first three pages are left blank for listing characters names as they are created, as well as their relationship to other characters, and any significant physical details.
Yes, I use something like this too. Someone passed on a character profile template (MS Word tool) to me a few years ago. It forced me to put extra thought beyond the physical traits of each character (like social class, education, profession, judging or perceiving, thinking or feeling, etc.). It really helped to keep them consistent, even in minor circumstances.
Knowing these things about characters is important to avoid continuity problems, so I am in the process of making one for each character. I will also include a short biography which may or may not include stuff featured in the books. All this information will be available on my website come the beginning of August.
I write long-hand in spiral notebooks (and one of my novella WIPS directly on the computer.) For the ones in the notebooks, I use the inside of the cover to list setting/character details that I want to remember.
For the computer one, I have a whiteboard with the characters written down next to it. (I can't wait to be done with it so I can have my whiteboard space back. )
Character's date and place of birth, relationship to others, height, build, eye color, hair color-- all the vital statistics.
Then, I will sit down and let the character "talk" for about three to five minutes. I'll type what I hear him or her saying, basically transcibing their flow of consciousness. This way I get some sense of their voice, their thought-process, their hopes and dreams, their backstory, what have you. It's a neat and often very effective exercise.
I do for the characters that I intend to use for longer projects or the ones I plan to use in multiple projects. Some of the ones for short projects or where their project isn't done pulling itself into a full idea (rather than 'what if I have someone who...') but I do try to have at least a little file with their basic description (approximate age, hair color and general style, eye color, general way of dressing (business conservative, sporty-casual, short skirts cheap-stylish, color blind eclectic), occupation, goals, and their purpose in that story)
Sometimes it helps me get a better grip on the character to do up an information sheet on them. Maybe not all of it will appear, maybe even most of it won't, but I need to know some of it, and the better idea I have of the character, the better I can write them.
On my current romance WIP (one day left, yeah!) I've woven together the stories of three couples. Even before I started writing I realized I wouldn't be able to keep them straight, plus their personalities so I leafed through some old magazines and chose pix of people who fit the characters - big enough that I could see details. Then I typed name, job, age, height, eyes and one line about them and stuck that underneath the pix. I can't tell you how many times I've had to refer to it. Sounds child-like, I know, but I think I'll do it again for my next-to-next one, which will have a cast of thousands...almost.
I like weaving it all together, and only hope I've made the characters distinct enough that the reader doesn't get confused. Dontcha hate that?
Yes, I do. Very detailed ones. Not only what the character looks like but where he lives, what his house and neighborhood looks like, when and where he was born. What his job it, religion, education , prison record,etc.
What he wants out of life and so on.
I have a book with a ridiculous title FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, by karen S. Wiesner. (It usually takes me months.) But she has fantastic templates in there that don't let you forget anything. By the time I'm finished filling them out, I almost never have to reference them again (against for physical characteristics.) because its been so detailed.
I keep both hard copies in a binder and digital copies on my computer.
Also, if your weakness is plotting, as is mine, this book is a goldmine.
All are great ideas to add to my notes. And I haven't thought about magazine pictures. That's an easy to do thing. I bought one of those magazine offer designer dolls when I began writing[i] Shadows o'er Killarney[/i] to continually glance at when I described my heroine. She is the spittin' image of my Irish Jenny in period costume. We all need something to develop characters, settings, etc. And when you write about three couples, monawrites, I can imagine how helpful the notes become. Good thoughts, authors!
As seen above, they are helpful to some. I'm not anywhere near some authors' number of titles, but I can visualize my mistakenly using the same character's name in another work and being called out on it. So, I've started using them again.