How to Use a Character Development Worksheet [With Free Download!]

character development worksheet

Character development is the core of any good story. It’s the process that turns flat characters into rich, fully formed people who readers love.

A good character can make a story unforgettable and let readers connect emotionally. That’s why you need a great character development worksheet! It’s a structured way to plan out your story characters, helping you create detailed character profiles so they are consistent, believable, and have interesting character arcs.

In this article, you’ll find all the parts of a character development worksheet and how to use them. You’ll be able to download my free Character Workbook and you’ll be taught how to use it here! Make sure to bookmark this article so you can find it again when you’re ready to plan out the personality traits, motivations, and relationships of your next story character!

What is Character Development?

Character development is the process of creating fictional characters who are as deep and complex as real people.

This means defining the character’s personality, backstories, motivations, and growth arcs so that they’re relatable and memorable to the reader (or watcher, in the case of a movie character)!

character development

Character development is important in storytelling because it turns characters from one-dimensional to fully formed people.

A well-developed main character will drive your story and engage your audience on an emotional level.

Why Use a Character Development Worksheet?

A character development worksheet gives you a framework to build out characters so they’re multi-dimensional and consistent throughout the story. It helps you look into all aspects of a character’s life—background, personality, goals, and central conflict.

Using a character development worksheet allows you to think about and record all the tiny details and important information about your characters.

How to Use My Character Development Worksheet

the title page for my character development worksheet

Now, I’m going to go through each section of the worksheet that you can download here on this page. Use this information to help you use the workbook.

We’ll go through one section at a time, including character questions to help you consider various aspects of your character.

You can see examples of each section in the free downloadable workbook.

Step One: Character Profile

This is the easiest section where you’ll jot down the basics of your character.

Character Development Worksheet - Page 1

Name, Alias or Nickname, Gender, Age: Choose a name that fits your character’s background and personality. Do they have a nickname or a fake name they use sometimes? How old are they? These factors influence how your character sees the world and how others see them.

Appearance: What does your character look like? How tall are they? Are they skinny, average, or big? What color is their hair and eyes? Do they have any special marks or features that make them stand out? Think about how their looks might affect how they feel about themselves or how others treat them. What to think about:

  • Height and Build: Describe the character’s stature and physique. Are they tall, short, muscular, slender, etc.?

  • Hair: Think about hair color, length, style, and texture of the character’s hair.

  • Eyes: Color, shape, and any distinctive features like glasses or a unique gaze.

  • Skin: Tone, texture, and any notable marks such as scars, tattoos, or birthmarks.

  • Clothing Style: Typical attire that reflects their personality, profession, or social status.

  • Distinguishing Features: Any unique physical traits that make the character stand out, such as a limp, a prominent scar, certain facial features, or a distinctive way of dressing.

Step Two: Background Information

Next, you’ll think about your character’s early history and family dynamics.

Place of Birth: Specify where your character was born. Consider how this place has shaped them, even if they’ve since moved away.

Family: Who raised your character? Do they have brothers or sisters? Think about whether their family is close or if they don’t get along. Family can be a big influence on how your character acts and feels.

  • Parents: Names, occupations, and relationship with the character.

  • Siblings: Names, ages, and dynamics with the character.

  • Extended Family: Any significant aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.

  • Family History: Any notable events or circumstances that have affected the family.

Upbringing: How did your character grow up? Was it in a city or the countryside? Were they rich or poor? Happy or sad? Important events from their childhood can shape who they become.

Education: What kind of schooling did your character have? Did they go to public school, private school, or were they homeschooled? Maybe they learned things outside of school, such as from a family business.

Occupation: What does your character do for work? Is it a job they love or just something to pay the bills? If they’re still in school, what do they want to be when they grow up? A character’s job (or lack of one) can affect how they see themselves and how others see them.

Step Three: Character’s Personality

In this section, you’ll look at who your character really is. What makes them a relatable character for your readers (or watchers, in the case of a screenplay for a movie!).

Character Development Worksheet - page 2

Personality Traits: List 5-7 main traits that describe your character. Are they shy or outgoing? Funny or serious? Kind or mean? Think about how these traits show up in the way they act and talk to others.

Strengths: What is your character good at? These could be things they can do well (like math or sports) or good qualities they have (like being brave or creative). Think about how these strengths help your character in their life.

Weaknesses: Nobody’s perfect. What does your character struggle with? Maybe they’re not good at talking to new people, or they lose their temper easily. Weaknesses make your character more believable and give them room to grow in your story.

Fears: What scares your character? It could be something specific like spiders, or something bigger like failing at school. Knowing what your character fears helps you understand the character’s motivation and what challenges they might face.

Hobbies/Interests: What does your character like to do for fun? Do they play video games, read books, or collect rocks?

Step Four: Relationships

Now, you’ll start to consider your character’s relationships with other people in the story’s world.

Character Development Worksheet - page 3

Family Relationships: Think about how your character gets along with their family. Are they close or distant? Do they have good relationships with their parents, siblings, or other relatives? Family ties can be a source of support or stress for your character. Consider how these relationships affect your character’s behavior and decisions.

  • Who is the family member your character is closest to? Why?

  • Is there any family tension or conflict? What caused it?

  • How have family relationships shaped your character’s views on trust and love?

Friends: Describe your character’s friendships. Do they have many friends or just a few close ones? What kind of people do they hang out with? Friends can reveal a lot about your character’s personality and values. Think about how these friendships started and what keeps them strong.

  • Who is your character’s best friend? How did they meet?

  • Does your character easily make new friends, or do they struggle with this?

  • Are there any friendships that have ended? Why?

Romantic Relationships: If your character is old enough, consider their romantic life. Are they single, dating, or in a long-term relationship? What do they look for in a partner? Past relationships can also be important. Think about how romance (or the lack of it) affects your character’s happiness and goals.

  • What was your character’s first crush or relationship like?

  • How does your character handle heartbreak or rejection?

  • What are your character’s views on love and commitment?

Enemies: Not everyone gets along. Who doesn’t like your character, and why? Enemies can be obvious (like a school bully) or more subtle (like a jealous coworker). These negative relationships can create conflict in your story and show different sides of your character.

  • Who is your character’s main rival or enemy? What started their conflict?

  • How does your character typically deal with people who dislike them?

  • Has your character ever turned an enemy into a friend, or vice versa?

Step Five: Motivations and Goals

This step is about understanding what drives your character and what they want to achieve.

Character Development Workbook - page 4

Primary Goal: This is the big thing your character wants most in life. It’s what they’re always working towards.

  • What is the one thing your character wants more than anything else?

  • Why is this goal so important to them?

  • What would happen if they achieved this goal? How would it change their life?

Secondary Goals: These are other things your character wants, but they’re not as important as the primary goal. These goals can help you create subplots for your story.

  • List two or three smaller goals your character has.

  • How do these goals relate to their primary goal?

Motivations: These are the reasons behind your character’s goals. Motivations explain why your character wants what they want.

  • What experiences from your character’s past shape their motivations?

  • Is your character motivated more by positive things (like love or success) or negative things (like fear or revenge)?

  • How might your character’s motivations change throughout the story?

Core Beliefs: These are the basic ideas your character believes about the world and how it works.

  • What does your character believe about right and wrong?

  • How does your character view other people? Do they trust easily or are they suspicious?

  • What’s one belief your character has that might change during your story?

Step Six: Key Events

This step looks at important moments in your character’s life that have shaped who they are.

Defining Moment: This is a super important event that changed your character’s life in a big way.

  • What is one event that had a huge impact on your character?

  • How did this event change your character’s life or way of thinking?

  • Does your character see this moment as good or bad? Why?

Traumas: These are really tough or scary experiences that left a lasting mark on your character.

  • What’s the hardest thing your character has gone through?

  • How does this trauma still affect your character today?

  • Has your character tried to overcome this trauma? How?

Turning Points: These are moments when your character made a big decision or when something happened that changed the direction of their life.

  • What’s a time when your character made a choice that changed everything?

  • Was there ever a moment when your character’s luck suddenly changed (good or bad)?

  • How did these turning points affect your character’s goals or beliefs?

Step Seven: Skills and Abilities

This step is about figuring out what your character is good at. These skills and abilities make your protagonist unique.

Character Development Workbook

Talents: These are things your character is naturally good at, often without having to try too hard.

  • What is your character naturally gifted at doing?

  • How did your character discover this talent?

  • Does your character use this talent often? Why or why not?

Learned Skills: These are abilities your character has picked up through practice, study, or training.

  • What skills has your character worked hard to learn?

  • Why did your character choose to learn these skills?

  • Is there a skill your character is still trying to improve?

Special Abilities: These could be unusual or extraordinary powers, depending on the type of story you’re writing.

  • Does your character have any abilities that most people don’t?

  • How did your character get these special abilities?

  • What are the good and bad sides of having these abilities?

Step Eight: Conflict and Growth

This step is where you think about the problems your characters develop and how they change over time.

Internal Conflict: Internal conflict is the struggle that happens within a character. It involves their emotions, desires, and fears clashing with each other. This type of conflict adds depth to the character and makes their journey more relatable.

  • What big decision or problem is your character struggling with?

  • How does this inner conflict affect your character’s actions?

  • Is this conflict related to your character’s goals or beliefs?

External Conflict: External conflict is the struggle between a character and an outside force. This can include other characters, society, nature, or technology. External conflicts drive the plot and create obstacles for the character to overcome.

  • Who or what is standing in the way of your character’s goals?

  • What difficult situation is your character facing?

  • How does your character typically react to outside problems?

Character Arc: This is how your character changes from the beginning to the end of the story.

  • How is your character different at the end of the story compared to the beginning?

  • What experiences or events cause your character to change?

  • Does your character learn any important lessons during their journey?

Step Nine: Additional Details

This step is where you add unique touches to your character. These small details can make your character more memorable.

Character Development Workbook - 7

Quirks: These are odd or unusual habits your character has. Quirks can also be part of the character’s physical appearance, such as a distinctive scar, hairstyle, or mannerism.

  • What’s a strange habit your character has?

  • Does your character have any nervous tics or things they do without thinking?

  • How do other characters react to these quirks?

Speech Patterns: This is about how your character talks and the words they use.

  • Does your character have any favorite sayings or words they use a lot?

  • Does your character speak formally or casually? Do they use slang?

  • Does your character have an accent or pronounce certain words in a unique way?

Symbols or Emblems: These are objects or images that represent your character or are important to them.

  • Is there an object your character always carries with them? Why?

  • Does your character wear or use anything that has special meaning to them?

  • Is there a symbol that represents your character’s family, job, or beliefs?

How to Make Characters Relatable

how to write relatable characters
  1. Show Vulnerability: Allow your characters to have moments of doubt, fear, or failure. This makes them more human and reveals aspects of the character’s personality.

  2. Use Realistic Dialogue: Write dialogue that reflects your character’s personality and background. Avoid overly formal or unrealistic speech patterns.

  3. Incorporate Flaws and Growth: Give your characters flaws and show their growth over the course of the story. This creates a dynamic and engaging character arc.

Download The Workbook

Take a moment to download my free workbook, then use the information in this article to help you develop your own character!

Advanced Techniques

Creating compelling characters involves deepening their complexity and planning their growth throughout the story. Here are some advanced techniques to enhance your character development.

Make Your Characters Complex

Consider incorporating detailed backstories, internal conflicts, and well-defined character arcs.

  • Backstory: A rich backstory provides context for a character’s actions and motivations. It includes their past experiences, traumas, and significant life events. For example, in Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister’s backstory is revealed through multiple perspectives, adding layers to his character and making his actions more understandable.

  • Internal Conflicts: Characters with internal struggles are more engaging. These conflicts can be moral dilemmas, fears, or desires that clash with their goals. For instance, Kylo Ren from Star Wars grapples with his identity and the pull between the dark and light sides of the Force.

  • Character Arcs: A well-planned character arc shows growth and change over time. This can be a positive transformation, a descent into villainy, or a more nuanced journey. For example, Walter White’s transformation from a mild-mannered teacher to a ruthless drug lord in Breaking Bad is a compelling character arc that keeps audiences invested.

archetypical characters

Character Arcs and Growth

Character arcs show a character’s development and transformation throughout the story. Here’s how to plan and execute them effectively:

  • Planning Character Arcs: Start by identifying your character’s initial state and their end goal. Outline the key events that will challenge and change them. This includes the inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins starts as a naïve hobbit and grows into a courageous hero through his journey to destroy the One Ring.

  • Executing Character Arcs: Ensure that the character’s growth is believable. Show how external events and internal conflicts shape their decisions and actions.

Example: Outline a character’s journey and transformation:

  • Beginning: Sarah Thompson is a self-centered marketing executive focused solely on her career.

  • Inciting Incident: Sarah’s company faces a major crisis, and she is forced to work closely with her team to resolve it.

  • Rising Action: Through various challenges, Sarah begins to see the value of teamwork and empathy.

  • Climax: Sarah makes a significant sacrifice to save her company, putting her team’s needs above her own.

  • Resolution: By the end of the story, Sarah has transformed into a compassionate leader who values her colleagues and their contributions.

Examples of Well-Developed Characters

  1. Harry Potter: Starts as an abused orphan and grows into a brave, selfless hero who learns the power of love and friendship.

  2. Katniss Everdeen: Begins as a survivor focused on protecting her family, and becomes a reluctant symbol of rebellion who fights for justice.

  3. Frodo Baggins: A simple hobbit who develops courage and resilience as he carries a great burden to save Middle-earth.

  4. Hermione Granger: Starts as a know-it-all bookworm and grows into a confident, compassionate leader who values friendship and bravery.

  5. Tony Stark (Iron Man): Transforms from a selfish, arrogant weapons maker into a selfless superhero who sacrifices everything to protect others.

  6. Elizabeth Bennet: Learns to look beyond first impressions and social status, overcoming her own pride and prejudices.

  7. Severus Snape: Appears as a bitter, cruel teacher but is revealed to be a complex character driven by love and regret.

  8. Anakin Skywalker: A hopeful young Jedi who falls to the dark side but ultimately finds redemption through his love for his son.

  9. Daenerys Targaryen: Evolves from a timid girl into a powerful leader, struggling with the temptations of power and her family’s legacy.

  10. Walter White: A mild-mannered teacher who gradually becomes a ruthless drug lord, exploring the corrupting influence of power.

  11. Sherlock Holmes: A brilliant but cold detective who slowly learns the value of friendship and human connection.

  12. Miles Morales: A reluctant young Spider-Man who learns to embrace his unique identity and responsibilities as a hero.

  13. Tyrion Lannister: An outcast in his own family who uses his wit to survive and ultimately becomes a voice for the common people.

  14. Elsa: A queen who fears her own powers but learns to accept herself and use her abilities to protect her kingdom.

  15. Jean Valjean: A bitter ex-convict who transforms into a compassionate and selfless man through an act of kindness.

story development worksheet Pin

From Concept to Creation: Make Your Characters Shine

Every great story is driven by its characters. Think of Elizabeth Bennet, Harry Potter, or Walter White—characters who have captivated audiences and stood the test of time. With my Character Development Workbook, you can create characters that resonate just as deeply.

Download the workbook today and give your characters the depth and complexity they deserve. If you need a bit of assistance to create your characters, check out my story coaching services!

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