Character Outlines: How to begin and What to Avoid (3d)

Plot springs from character…I’ve always sort of believed that these people inside me–these characters–know who they are and what they’re about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don’t type.  ~ Anne Larnott

I have been working on a character outline for a while now. Call me traditional, but when it comes to one of my characters I want to know everything.  I even lined up my Barbie’s by age and played with them in that order before I could get to the one I actually wanted to play with!

It is so difficult not to replay a character’s history before getting to the present one wants to write about.  Here are some tips that have helped me along the way to my ideal outline.

How to Begin

Having a character outline allows you to have a good idea of how your character will respond in any situation you put them in.  It prevents your characterization from being false, i.e. if the character isn’t believable the reader will lose interest. Getting a character’s life down depends on a lot of factors. One must consider their past, present and future simultaneously. It’s like being a real psychic—you need to see glimpses of that person’s life to understand them and their future.

Before you begin, remember: the character outline does not have to be perfect.  It can be worked on again and again like any scene you would edit.  As long as it’s the general or main idea of what you need to know about your character.

Mind Map

I would recommend using a mind map before you outline.  Looking at a series of questions is always daunting; better to start with a blank space and a circle. Write down everything and anything even if it is obvious to you.

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