The seven sentence character sketch

Creating a cast of character for a story can become daunting. There are many ways to flesh out your characters, but each of these is too complicated to use when making a “bit-player” in your stories. That is where the Seven Sentence Character Sketch comes in handy.

There are seven topics that will help a writer know how to fit a character in to a story. Some character may need more than a sentence for each topic, but in general, a sentence will do.

Main character Devi (left), Sickness (right)

Main character Devi (left), Sickness (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Occupation and History

The first sentence serves as an introduction to the character, describing what they do for a living and gives a brief history or background for the character. If he waits tables in the evening and attends classes during the day, this information should be provided in this sentence. The brief history can give clues to what other motivations might be instilled into the character or explains why they are here in the first place.

Physical Description

The second sentence is a brief description of the character. Are they short or tall, skinny or fat? What color is their hair and eyes? This is your first impressions when you see the character, distinguishing features will come later.

Mustache photoDistinguishing Feature

This sentence will give you something to make the character unique. She could bite her nails when she’s nervous. He could pull at his beard when in thought. They may have a foreign accent. Try to pick something that none of the other characters in your story would have. But don’t go over the top, especially if this will be a one-off character. This is also where you can give her a name.

Attributes and Skills

The fourth sentence describes the character’s attributes and skills. Here, any attributes that is above or below average should be noted. If the character is strong, you could say something about the thickness of his fingers or biceps. Is your character a poet? Say so in this sentence, even if this is something that your reader or main character will never know, if it helps you feel the character, include it.

values photoValues and Motivations

The fifth sentence will tell you what drives this particular character. His values and motivations will help you learn what makes them tick and hint to how you will use them in your narrative. Again, your main character and reader may never know these things about your character, but it helps get under their skin.

Interactions with Others

This is an important sentence that describes how your character interacts with others. Whether he is loud and obnoxious or is a shy introvert, it should be noted here. This also may influence on how your main character will react to given situation, so pay attention to this sentence when the character makes its appearance in a scene.

Useful Knowledge

Finally, but not the least of the overall sketch, comes a sentence that will determine how much this character contributes to the overall story. Does she hold a vital clue that helps solve the puzzle your main character is working on? Or does he just tell your hero where to find the car park?

Example: He stood behind the window at the reception counter with a practiced ease. His fine quaffed hair along with his dinner jacket that looked to be tailored to his tall frame was immaculate. Just before he speaks, he wipes his face with a silk monogrammed handkerchief (The letters TM, for Timothy Mathews) from his waistcoat. “Howdy folks,” Tim says with a slight outer rim drawl, “can I help ya with sum thing?” (If asked politely and given a bit of money for his trouble, Tim will pass on what he knows about the local crime lord.)

As you can see, this gives you enough to work with and doesn’t bog you down with a lot of useless trivia about each and every entity that might appear in your story. And who knows, you might come up with something that will turn into a recurring character that you want to flesh out at a later date. This can also be useful when first establishing your cast for a new story.

||| Loosely based on an article by C. M. Cline in Dragon Magazine, Issue 184 |||
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