By Jeanne Marie Leach

I can’t write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.

                                               —Sir Walter Raleigh

Characters are tantamount to a fiction story. Without interesting, believable characters, there is no story. Ask yourself the following questions when editing your work of fiction:

  • Does the character fit the story?
  • Does the name fit the character?

If you are in doubt about whether a name would have been used during a certain era, do an online search for names. Remember, if the character is thirty years old, then the name must be a popular one from thirty years prior to when the story takes place.

Every author should have a character sheet for each of their main characters. If you don’t have one, then fill out the simple one below. Why? Characters must remain true to themselves just like real-life people. These are the things you must be aware of while editing a fiction manuscript.

Often in my own WIP, I will begin with my main character having blue eyes, and then later in the story they are mentioned as brown. I’ve also changed a character’s name, but missed it in a couple other spots near the end of the book.

I’ve seen a character in one book I’ve edited who was so evil she was about to kill her father and sister to get what she wanted. She was part of a major, covert conspiracy. However, halfway through the book, the author had her act frightened of what one of the hit-men she’d hired said to her. Even if she was scared of him, this was out of character for her to actually show her fear. She would have hid it and bossed the guy around even more—maybe even had him killed.

So be on the lookout for inconsistencies in your characterization.


Simple Character sheet

1. Name of Character

2. What is this character’s role in the book (heroine, hero, villain)?

3. Age, height, weight

4. Hair Color, eye color

5. Scars, handicaps (physical, mental, emotional)

6.  What kind of sense of humor does the character have?

7. Basic nature

8. What does this character want most (their goal)?

9.  Philosophy of life

10. Hobbies

11. Kinds of music, art, reading preferred

12. Favorite colors

13. Educational background

14. Work experience/occupation

15. Best friend

16. Enemies and why

17. Family background (economic, social, nationality, religious, parents)

18. Description of home (physical, emotional atmosphere)

19. What are this character’s strengths?

20. What are this character’s weaknesses?

21. Sees herself/himself as…

22. Seen by others as…

23. Most important thing to know about the character

24. How does character react when in the following situations:  angry, sad, happy

Next week, we will dig deeper into characterization and discuss antagonists and protagonists.