Character Sketching

Creative Writing - Character Sketching

Character Sketching: Outline

A character is effectively a lens through which actions, objectives and relationship with other characters are viewed. 

The combination of these factors gives the character his/her individual perspective within the narrative, and of course determines the actions and reactions of a character. 

Setting out different characters’ perspective, at any point in a narrative, provides an excellent base for the creative development of a work.

This technique has the additional benefits of helping to create and ‘flesh out’ characters – and also to develop the voice and characteristic dialogue of a character. 

Character Sketching: Essential Details

‘Character Sketching’ begins with a ‘specific idea’ (i.e. a subject, concept, theme, direction, belief that is the focus of your work).  

Creative Techniques are then used to add ‘general ideas’ (i.e. diverse, different and disparate ideas derived from creative thinking) to this specific idea.  The combination of the specific and the general will lead to a potential scenario (point-of-departure) for a creative work.

Two (or more) characters are now sketched out and their attitudes to the creative scenario are described. 

In the following (basic) illustration the essential details of three characters – the ‘Objectives’ of each character and the ‘Lens’ through which each character views the action – are defined. 

Describing the perspective of each of the three characters, in light of the situation delineated by the specific (focus) and general (creative) ideas identified, provides a range of ideas for a scenario (‘point of departure’) for the establishment and development of a text for a creative work.

Different combinations of Specific and General Ideas, with different Character Objectives and Lenses, will of course give rise to alternative creative possibilities.

Character Sketching: Illustration

Using the Specific Idea of The Workshop

Generation of creative General Ideas

(A) Creative Technique: Concepts

The Concept of ‘Corrosion’

(B) Creative Technique: Word Chart

A Word Chart interpreting the situation in ‘The Workshop.’

Decay Corrosion Decrease Ruin Failing
Rights Claim Immunity Exemption Permission
Liberty Choice Sanction Privilege  Right
Intent Firm Immersed Bound Settled
Sanction Authority Support Backing Word
Responsibility   Power Contract Fault Engagement
Granting Assign Yield Stake Surrender
Diminish Lessen Weaken Die Out Cut
Outrage Enormity Insult Harm Ruin
Broke Ruined Insolvent Needy Destitute
Burn Smoulder Wither Scald Melt
Promotion Raise Betterment Improvement Break through
Renew Stimulate Overhaul Replace Transform

Character Sketching: A Worked Example

Character A:

Objective: Maintain the workshop

Lens: In search of compromise

  • The trustees are responsible people – and we will handle this responsibly 
  • We have to prevent the ruin of the society.  We cannot let the organisation decay with the building.
  • We need to explore every avenue for funding to keep the workshop open.  There will be a breakthrough soon.
  • But at the same time we must be realistic.  We need to give those who use the workshop time to find other arrangements.
  • The leasing company can surely be reasoned with.  It is not in their interests to have the building sat empty.
  • We are also a charity.  How will it be seen by this community if they try to force us out precipitously?
  • It is far better to renew the lease on more reasonable terms than to face the repercussions of forcing us out .

Character B:

Objective: Recover the Building

Lens: Determined & aggrieved

  • I have already given the Workshop more time and now there has been enough time.
  • It is a question of finance not a question of choice
  • This company would be ruined if it were to be as patient with all our tenants
  • We should have known better than to rent a property to a charity.
  • This charity thinks it can escape  the realities of finance and business.   Tell the trustees, I want my money.
  • Action is needed now.  The time has run out.  You all agree?

Character C:

Objective: Preservation

Lens: Desperation and anger

  • Without the workshop I face final ruin and the anger smoulders inside me. 
  • Do you know the perfection that can be carved into a chair? 
  • It takes years to master the skill of shaping the wood of the poplar.
  • Do they think someone who can shape such a chair can be so easily sat upon.
  • Doing what you are good at creates a small space of freedom in these grinding times.
  • I have been hammered.  Year after Year.  I am bent in two.
  • My corner in this workshop is my last refuge.  I will not surrender it.
  • The saw, the hammer and my chisel will stand in the face of the attacker.