Characters Do Things

07 Jul

The biggest decision you’ll make is to know what your character will DO in your story. Story characters are never passive, they take action, and how they act will predominantly depend on their experience, background and personality. A character who has been stung by a bee will react differently when a bee buzzes close by, than a character who has not been stung.

Here’s an example (and please do not try this at home – I am a professional chicken) The Mad Hatter will continue sitting and reading her book when a bee flies by, whereas I, the White Rabbit, will throw my book, spill my drink and madly dash indoors because I have been stung and am allergic to bees.

So here is your first infusion exercise to character development. We want you to start a character journal. Even as an illustrator, a good way to know your story characters is to fill out a characterisation sheet. Here’s a sample below you can use, and of course you can add more questions. If you aren’t currently writing/illustrating a specific character, create one on the spot. You may surprise yourself and get a start on a new novel or picture book!


  • Name (including last and middle names) and age.
  • Nickname (and how they got this).
  • Physical description.
  • Family members/friends/pets names and ages.
  • Favorite person and why.
  • Least favorite person and why.
  • Best friend (how long and why).
  • Favorite food.
  • Least favorite food.
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite word or saying.
  • Living situation.
  • Bad habits.
  • Secrets – could be a secret wish.
  • Enemies.
  • Any allergies.
  • The thing they are most scared of.
  • The thing that makes them laugh/smile/feel happy.

Actions reveal the personality behind them…and so in your character’s shoes, you will be responding to things you see, hear, smell, taste and touch in your journals. You must stay true to your character when you are attempting this exercise. Remember, when a character acts consistently, that character then becomes believable.

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Posted by on July 7, 2010 in Characters Act


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