Thursday, April 16, 2009

Character Data Tracker

Keeping track of your characters is very important when writing a full length novel, but can become complicated unless you have a system in place. Getting to know your characters is one thing, but remembering all the little details is another. Here’s a form I use as a quick reference to specific facts of each character.

Character Data Tracker:

1. Complexion and skin type:

2. Blemishes, tattoos, or scars:

3. Eye shape and color:

4. Glasses or contacts?

5. Nose:

6. Hair color, texture, and style:

7. Facial hair:

8. Head shape:

9. Mouth and teeth:

10. Chin, jaw, and/or cheeks:

11. Body type:

12. Neck:

13. Shoulders:

14. Arms, hands, and fingers:

15. Chest and/or breasts:

16. Belly:

17. Legs, hips, and feet:

18. Voice, distinct tone, or phrases:

19. Personality/ identity:

20. Bad habits:

21. Hobbies:

22. Occupation:

23. Living quarters:

24. Vehicle:

25. Family members:

26. Other:

Do you have any tricks to help you remember details about your characters?


  1. Wow! That is alot of stuff to have to remember! Maybe that is why I am not an author LOL!

  2. The song on Lady Glamis' blog is I Have a Dream by ABBA. It's on the Momma Mia soundtrack (which rocks)! ;-)

  3. I generally make it up as I go along, so I drop excerpts from my writing into the character's spot in my data file and it's there when I look them up later on. It's far easier to do this than to work on character sheets.

    I also do that with words and cultural references I make up, list references and meanings. But I write SF and fantasy, and you can't always remember your slang for hacking software is "ravelling ware" when you made it up five minutes ago or haven't used it in three weeks.

  4. I'd like to say I do this--data tracking-- but I really don't.

    I think I just have a good memory for details. I know my characters because they're based on real people I've known.

  5. I use excel and have a worsheet for names, info, descrip. etc. I label it as info I need to know and refer to it often in my writing. =]

  6. Good advice! I've been trying to keep a character bio doc floating around to help me keep track of names and histories...this is really in depth.


  7. Lol, I've edited books of mine where my character will have two or three different eye colors. I forget if I don't write it down somewhere or remind myself. That is a nice extensive list you have there. I typically discover most of these things about the character as I go. Before I start writing, however, I will try to discover a few deeper things about my character. What is their internal conflict? What is their vulnerability? Where are they going (as in, what do they want from their life)? I find that it helps me engage with the character better and makes it easier to start right in the midst of their life instead of trying to begin with a huge summary of what they look like or where they work. I'll work to show these things along the way.

  8. I like that. It gives every nuance of description. And LOL at Cindy's post glad I'm not the only one who changes descriptives as the narrative wears on!

  9. Tollesons4him: I can't remember it all. That's why I have my handy list.

    Litgirl01: Thanks for the info. I'll have to get that CD.

    Writtenwyrdd: I do that too, but more for setting descriptions so I remember what his house looks like and what I've already described. I don't want to repeat the same type of description every time he comes home. LOL

    Kathy: You're lucky. For the most part, I remember the details, but I don't trust my memory. Besides, I'm planning on making a series out of this, so there's going to come a point where I won't be able to remember all of it.

    LexiconLuvr: High five!

    Carolyn: I hope it helps.

    Cindy: Some of my characters showed themselves to me before I began writing the story, but others jumped out as I went along. It doesn't matter to me when I fill out the info. What's important is that as soon as I have the details, I must add them to the character data tracker.

    T. Anne: I've found having a list like this prevents me from making those kinds of mistakes. What a relief to have one less thing to worry about when I write. Then again, I'm a plotter, so this system works well for me.

    Lynnette Labelle

  10. LOL No, I have no organized lists, though I do have scribbles. :-) I actually don't forget most details, but one detail that always plagues me is my characters' ages. I always forget that and it's the most annoying thing.

  11. I'm terrible at it! I do use notecards quite often but am not as organized as you:)

  12. I print out pictures of models/actors who resemble my characters, and I post the pics on a corkboard in front of my laptop.

    I also use a very in-depth Excel spreadsheet for easy reference.

    For minor characters, I jot down anything important on the manila folder I keep all of my notes in.

    A little high-tech, a little low-tech--it works!

  13. Oooh, I love this list/questionnaire. I may have to make something like this for my characters. Most of the details are scrawled on various pieces of paper near my computer. he he.

  14. I use an index card system (3x5s for the littles & 5x9s for the major characters) I learned from James Smith's book You Can Write a Novel, and really like having it all short-hand in one place.

    I still have a doc on each character (or set of characters, like siblings that always play off each other), but having something physical to flip through is my favorite thing.