On Writing: Developing a Character Worksheet

Before I begin writing a novel, I take time to create a page or two about each character I plan to include in my story.

Whenever I have the honor to speak about my books, someone in the audience always asks the question: “How do you get your ideas for characters?”

My response is always, “I’m a people watcher. I love people. Everywhere I go – whether it’s shopping at the grocery store, the mall, an antique alley, sitting in a restaurant, or traveling nationally or internationally – I see interesting characters.” I carry a small notebook in my purse, and when I see a person’s uniqueness, I will jot it down. I will combine one small quality of one person with another quality from another person to create my character.

Some of my friends are convinced they are in my books. I repeatedly assure them that they are not, but I’m glad they are able to identify with a particular character.

In my opinion, the author should develop a character’s attributes and personality traits to get a reaction from the reader. I always ask myself this question: “Do I want the reader to like or to dislike this person?” Then, I create the character accordingly, always with the thought in mind that in real life, there is no one hundred percent good or bad person. All are flawed. For example, in Scrabbled Secrets the kidnapper of Simon Townsend’s mother was ordered to kill her. He disobeyed the order. Though he admitted to committing more than one murder, he refused to kill an innocent woman, especially one who shows him kindness.

Before I begin a novel, I take time to write a page or two about each character I plan to include in my story (the one I have in my head before I type that first word).  Since I write cozy mysteries, this helps me remember important facts about a character. I did not do this when I wrote my first novel. So, when I began writing a sequel, I had to go back and scan the first novel to make sure a particular character’s eyes and hair did not change from book to book. While it takes time to prepare the character worksheet, it ultimately saves time in the long run.

Linda Pirtle

I’ve included my Character Worksheet on Lillian Prestridge, the heroine in all of the novels in The Games We Play series. Writing down the character’s goals and challenges within the character description also helps me avoid wandering up and down rabbit trails that do not add to the overall plot.

Lillian Prestridge:  

Physical Characteristics:  Long, gray hair. Usually worn up or pulled back at the nape.

Height:  5’8”

Weight: normal weight 135; currently ten pounds lighter

Color of her eyes: dependent upon the color of her attire.

Profession: Retired English teacher/school administrator; female sleuth

Family:  Widowed –  husband Bill was assassinated in Santa Fe; still grieving.

Biological Son: Jake, County Sheriff

Adopted Son: Grant Perryman, FBI Agent who works with Grant on some of his assignments.


Preferences:  Attire:  white or beige tunic tops, jeans or sweat pants, pink cardigan. With the exception of two business suits (one for funerals and one for weddings), she dresses casually.

Loves turquoise jewelry (prefers Navajo) and colorful scarves.

Hobbies: Reads all kinds of literature, works Sudoku, solves puzzles, plays Mah Jongg, dominoes, Scrabble, and other kinds of word games such as crossword puzzles and word searches.


Personality:  Independent, nosey (Miss Curiosity nickname), bossy, protective of her

loved ones (helicopter mom), adopts strays – both human and dogs –

Examples:  Grant whose parents died in an accident. She raised him.

Eli, a Standard White Poodle whose owner was murdered.

Sammie Nightingale, a Navajo woman, parents/grandparents died.

Religious. Begins each day with a scripture and prayer.


Self-discovery from Tarot Terrors:  She’s always loved two men.

Please click HERE to find Tarot Terrors on Amazon.

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