An examination of what defines a character sketch, how they are used, and how they can help you as a writer.
Writing a character sketch for each of your main characters is a helpful way to develop your writing. You may choose to take this step before you start writing, during the actual writing process, while you are revising your work, or during all of these times to further understand your characters.
What is a Character Sketch?
A character sketch is an examination of your characters’ personality traits. Essentially, it tells you who your character is and what their motivations are.
Character sketches come in many different forms, and may be written in the third person – that is, with you, the omniscient narrator, examining the character – or in the first person – that is, with you writing as the character examining themselves.
How are Character Sketches Used?
Character sketches are most often used as a part of the prewriting process. Writing a character sketch is a great way to come to feel like you understand where your character is coming from before dropping them into the middle of a complicated plot.
There are times, however, when you may decide to write character sketches while you are in the process of writing. This may be the solution to a block in your writing – perhaps you feel uncertain as to how your character would react in a certain situation.
Similarly, you may want to write a character sketch while you are revising a piece of work. This will probably be the result, again, of questioning whether your characters would act a certain way, and whether their actions are consistent with their personality and motivations.
The Character Sketch as a Short Story
In some cases, writing a character sketch may result in the character sketch becoming a short story in itself.
This may involve a “day in the life” sort of examination, or an examination of a character’s mannerisms, likes, and dislikes. A very well known example, which happens to be of the poetry genre, is T.S. Eliot’s The LoveSong of J. Alfred Prufrock, but it is certainly not the only one.
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Why Write Character Sketches?
Regardless of what kind of writing you do, knowing who your characters are is absolutely crucial. Your characters’ motivations drive their every word and action. This is especially true when you are writing a play, since you do not often have the opportunity to present the audience with the point of view of an omniscient narrator.
In addition to helping you as a writer, character sketches ultimately help your audience as well, because the better you know your character, the more real they will feel to the people who “meet” them. Having characters in your work that are easy to identify with will raise the level of emotional investment from your audience and therefore increase your success as a writer.
And before helping you drive your storyline, character sketches are an excellent writing exercise to develop story ideas and characters for upcoming works!