Character Development Worksheet – Jericho Writers
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Character Development Worksheet: Free Template For Authors

Our character development worksheet will help you create memorable characters that will jump off the page and give your readers someone to root for.

Discover everything you need to know about your characters with our easy to use template, and take the next step to writing your novel!

Get our carefully curated, completely FREE, character development sheet here!

What Is Character Development?

Character development often refers to the ways in which a character (in a film, play, novel etc) grows and changes due to their experiences and the events which take place in a story.

This development is most significant in relation to the protagonist(s), although all of the main characters (those who are named, described, and appear in the story on a semi-frequent basis) should also develop in some way.

Character development is also the process in which a writer crafts and shapes a character in their book, and this often includes things like creating a character bio and backstory. How you describe their personality traits matter way beyond just their appearance.

In this context, we’re focusing on the ways in which a character changes over time.

People often focus on the plot when writing a book, but having strong characters is also an essential element of a compelling story. Often, readers remember vivid characters more clearly than they do plot details.

Think about your favourite books, films, plays etc. It’s highly likely that you enjoyed them so much because the fictional characters grew in some way, which, along with their personality traits, endeared them to you and made them more relatable.

Our character development sheet will help with this, as we guide you through the process of thinking of your characters like a real person by asking yourself pertinent questions about their bad habits, favourite things and even the name of their best friend!

Use our cheat sheet to create a character that your readers will never forget!

Character Development And Genre

Character development is an essential part of every kind of story. But it’s more prominent, and explored in greater depth, in some genres more than others.

How Does Genre Affect Character Development?

Genre greatly affects character development, as some genres explore characters in more detail than others.

In literary fiction, for instance, characters are at the very heart of the story. Their development, emotions, experiences, and perspectives are explored at length. Whereas plot twists and intensely dramatic scenes occur less frequently. Books which are written in a stream of consciousness operate similarly.

Other books, such as horror fiction and thrillers, prioritise plot, but readers still want to see that the main characters have adapted to the monster/serial killer/villain, realising that the monsters in their minds are as terrifying as the ones right outside their door.

Types Of Character Development

Genre also dictates the kind of character development you employ, as some genres favour plot over character, while for others the opposite is true.

Internal Character Development

Internal character development (their goals and motivations, what drives their behaviour) is often the focus in genres like literary fiction and family saga. This character depth is often reflected in a character’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

External Character Development

External character development (transformative experiences, how they deal with difficult situations) tends to be more of the focus in action/adventure novels and thrillers. This is often shown through their relationships, actions, and dialogue.

Most stories use some combination of the two, but many of them focus on one type more than the other.

So character development is always important, it’s just a matter of how much you implement it in your writing.

Why Do You Need A Character Development Sheet?

We all know that characters are an important part of any story, but why is character development important?

The development of a character, how they grow and change, is what makes them so endearing to the reader, turning a good book into one you can’t put down.

Our worksheet will guide you through the character development questions you need to ask yourself so you can really drill down into what makes your characters tick. The deeper you delve, the more real the character will feel.

The Benefits Of Our Character Development Worksheet

When you’re writing a book, it can be difficult to keep track of everything – from plot and character names, to their motivations and arc.

With our character development sheet, keeping track of your character’s history and growth is one less thing to worry about.

At any point during the writing process, you can simply refer back to your character development template, where you’ll find everything you need to know about your main character and their traits. Which in turn helps you move your plot along easier as you will instinctively know what drives them forward.

Knowing Your Characters Is Key

Knowing your characters well and understanding each character’s personality is crucial when establishing how they will change and develop in your story, and it will also make writing the rest of your story simpler.

It’ll be easier to decide how your main and minor characters would react to certain things, how they interact with one another, what your character’s strengths are, and what kind of everyday task they can be doing when something dramatic happens.

If you struggle to pluck this kind of information out of thin air, try imagining that you’re interviewing your character or having a conversation with you. What are they saying? How do they look? What is their personality type?

The more you know them, the easier writing will be.

The Importance Of Well Rounded Characters

Character development also helps you ensure that you have well rounded characters. They need to be as complex and intricate as real people, and they also need to be distinguishable from one another.

By filling in our character development sheet for each character in your book, you will be able to ensure that they are all unique, and even highlight how one is a foil for another.

How To Develop Your Characters

There are many different ways to include character growth in your story. Here are some of ideas.

Using Our Character Development Template

Use our list of character development questions to help you craft your character’s backstory and identities. Make notes about their arcs, and even add pictures as a point of reference.

How much detail you add is down to you, but our character development sheet provides the framework you need to get started.

Use Your Chosen Time Frame To Your Advantage

When you’re developing your characters, it’s also important to take note that the reader is entering a very specific part of your character’s life, but your story is unlikely to cover their entire lifespan.

So, though you want to show they have changed, ensure you don’t end with them as a perfect, idealised version of themselves. Not only would this be unrealistic, but it would also mean that readers would likely be disappointed by your book’s ending, and if you later decide to write a sequel, doing so would be difficult as there’s nowhere to go from there.

Books Which Cover A Longer Time Frame

Of course, with books that span a longer period of time (several years, or even decades) character development can occur more naturally. Over time, as we mature and amass more experience (and hopefully wisdom) we all change. Your characters should too.

The basic details of their lives may remain largely the same, but perhaps they learn to forgive themselves for a mistake they made in their childhood. Or maybe they make a huge career change, have an important conversation with a loved one that was a long time coming, or immigrate to a different continent.

Regardless, covering a longer period of time (and hopefully having greater parameters to work within in terms of word count) means your character can evolve naturally over time.

Use Your Experience As A Guide

When developing your characters it can be helpful to think about all the different facets of your life and use them as a guide.

For instance, you could consider some very specific character development questions, such as ‘What is their zodiac sign?’, ‘Have they ever been heart broken?’, ‘What’s their most treasured possession?’, or ‘What’s their greatest achievement?’

Then ask yourself how the answers to these questions shaped your characters.

What Are Some Examples Of Character Development?

Pick up any book, watch any film, or listen to any audiobook, and you will find examples of character development.

Sometimes character development is at the foreground of a story, other times the plot rules, but either way, finding a great story where the character doesn’t develop or grow is impossible.

Here are some great examples of books with strong character development.

Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

What Experiences Does The Character Have?

One such example of character development is the eponymous character in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Coming of age novels almost always have strong character development, and this classic is no exception.

The novel starts when Jane is a child, and she struggles to find her place in the world and among her family, peers, and teachers. Much of the conflict in the novel comes from her struggling to find acceptance. But over time, as she becomes more independent and self-sufficient, she gains self-worth and realises that what other people think of her isn’t as important as what she thinks of herself. As she becomes a governess, and then inherits some money, this independence also means she no longer has to rely on cruel employers in order to provide for herself.

So she simultaneously earns financial stability, meaning she no longer has to worry about money to the extent that she did, and breaks away from other people’s expectations of her, as they no longer affect her as deeply.

Jane’s character development is also shown in her relationship with Mr Rochester. Initially, as her wealthy, older employer, he has all the power in their relationship. But when she leaves, and returns as a woman who’s financially independent, and cares for Rochester after he is blinded, the power balance is much more equal and, if anything, in her favour.

How Does The Character Develop?

If Jane had stayed with Rochester when they were initially together, she would have hardly developed as a character. If she hadn’t left, she never would’ve come to meet the people who supported her and eventually provided her with the financial self-sufficiency she so desired. The book also would’ve ended with her in much the same position as she was at the start; lost and alone, with no sense of her place in the world, with her life dictated by elders who had greater financial means than her. Thank goodness that’s not how Bronte ended it. It certainly would’ve been a much sadder story. And Jane wouldn’t be the same beloved heroine she is today.

Let’s look at another example of character development.

Normal People By Sally Rooney

What Experiences Does The Character Have?

Marianne in Normal People has a similar character arc to Jane.

At the start of the novel, she is a discontent teenager about to go to university. She is very intelligent and struggles to form friendships, though doing so is not a priority for her. Her brother regularly mistreats her, and her peers at school are cruel to her, but things begin to change when she falls in love with Connell.

As Marianne starts university, she gains some self-confidence, though the men that she dates are cruel to her and tell her horrible things about herself, and she finds herself believing them as she doesn’t think that she deserves love.

After some time, Marianne distances herself from those who hurt her and begins to trust herself and her relationship with Connell. She surrounds herself with people who care for her and treat her well and begins to believe that she deserves to feel safe and content.

How Does The Character Develop?

The character development here is not as smooth an arc as the one in Jane Eyre; Marianne starts to gain self-confidence but loses it, and then gradually gains it again as she begins to feel more settled and comfortable with who she is and what she deserves.

Different characters have different arcs, and you get to decide whether you create characters who develop in very clear ways, ones which experience lots of twists and turns, or a balance of the two, as is often the case.

The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins

What Experiences Does The Character Have?

The character development of Katniss, the main character in The Hunger Games, is quite unusual.

On the surface, it may seem that Katniss doesn’t really change or develop as a character at all. She starts the book as an intelligent, courageous, resourceful young woman, and ends the book much the same way.

However, in participating in the Hunger Games, she finds that her principles have been tested as much as her abilities, and her belief in her morals and convictions has strengthened. The traits that she is well known for are what enable her to survive the Games, and they prompt her to decide to put an end to the antics and cruelties of the Capitol and its leaders.

How Does The Character Develop?

Though it’s more of a subtle change, Katniss develops as her character traits are strengthened leaving her more emboldened than ever before. The injustices she experiences prove to her that changes need to be made, and the knowledge that she has survived the Games drives her to continue to fight.

Characters who develop in less obvious ways must be really compelling, otherwise, readers may not care enough to pick up on the nuances of their growth. The changes Katniss inspires in others (protests form, President Snow is more shaken than he’d like to admit, and some of the Districts form alliances) are more obvious than the changes which she herself undergoes.

Developing Your Characters

Now that you know what character development is, and have seen some examples of it, it’s time to think about how you want to develop the characters in your own book.

Consider whether you want one or two of your characters to develop substantially, whether you want your main character and minor characters alike to develop in more nuanced ways, or whether you want to employ a different combination of character growth among your characters.

Thinking about all the major and minute changes every single one of your characters will experience can be overwhelming. So where do you start?

With our FREE character development download, of course!

We’ve spent lots of time crafting a resource that asks all the questions you need to answer in order to develop your characters.

What are you waiting for? Download our free character development sheet here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Write For Character Development?

Developing your characters can be tricky. It involves thinking about how all your characters would respond to each plot point, considering how their backstories affect them, and thinking about the trajectory you want each one of them to have. One of the first things you need to do when developing a character is to determine the role they play in your book. Establish their goals and motivations, and make sure they have strengths that entice the reader and limitations which make them endearing.

Consider the internal and external conflicts they will face, their main characteristics, and what makes them unique. Having an initial outline of the development you incision for each character is a great start. Then you can start writing it.

What Is A Character Development?

The process of character development refers to the process in which unique, well rounded characters are created with distinct personality traits, motivations, and experiences. Character development is about the changes a character undergoes throughout a story, and how they are impacted by their background, behaviour, and the story’s events.

What Is An Example Of Character Development?

Lots of children’s books have very distinct character arcs which show character development clearly. For instance, in fantasy or action/adventure books, when the protagonist learns of a prophecy that they were fated to fulfil. At first, they are overwhelmed and certain that there has been a mistake, and they are not the saviour everyone deems them to be. But as they face obstacles and learn more about themselves and their world, they learn that they are capable of far more than they imagined and they end the book aware of their strengths, with greater self-confidence and determination.

Almost every story is rife with examples of character development. Think of your favourite book/film/video game/play etc and consider how the main character was at the start of the book, and how they are at the end of it, and then notice the changes between those two versions of the same person. Or consider how you’ve grown in the past one, five, or ten years. There really are examples of character development everywhere.