NaNoWriMo Prep Week 2: Characters

Some people start their stories with a plot ideas. Others start with a character in mind.

I’m going to talk about character first, simply because that’s the way I write. Next week we’ll talk about plot.

Even if you don’t plan on outlining for NaNoWriMo, you’ll need at least a main character to start with.  However, how much you’ll decide ahead of time will depend on your personal preference.

There’s no shortage of character profile worksheets available on the web.  I’ve linked a few here for those that are interested in detailing their characters.

Do you really need to know what color hair your main character has and when her birthday is and what happened when she was in third grade before you can begin your NaNo writing?


What’s really important for NaNo is knowing your character’s goal and motivation.  You just have to know why she’s there.  Once you’ve got her on stage and interacting with other characters, the rest will come.

If you know the goals and motivations of your other major characters — including the antagonist — that’d be great too.

Anything else is icing on the cake.

You should print or save blank copies of character profile worksheets to fill in as you go.  This way you’ll remember all those pesky little details you are inspired to make up as you are madly typing in your words.

As a pure outliner, I’ll be filling out character profiles and googling pictures of what all  my characters look like, before November 1.

Profile Sheets From First Draft in 30 Days

Profile Sheet that Includes “Interview” Questions 

Yet Another Character Profile Worksheet

Developing 3-Dimensional Characters

Plot vs Character by Jeff Gerke builds characters from the inside out based on the Meyers-Briggs personality types.

Review all our NaNoWriMo 2011 posts here.

For the comments:
Do you have ideas already for your characters?  Will you be filling out detailed profiles ahead of time or will you meet your characters throughout the story?  Do you have a certain worksheet or set of questions you like to fill out for your characters?  What comes first when you have a story idea: your character(s) or your plot?

4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Prep Week 2: Characters

Add yours

  1. Great stuff right here! I always have ideas for characters, because making characters is my absolute favorite part of writing. Most characters begin as a simple trait or idiosyncracy (I don’t think I spelled that right) or talent. Usually it’s something I wish I could do, like play the drums. After I figure out that one thing, I go from there. The basics never take more than about ten minutes, but then I break out the notebook and paper and figure out the things below the surface. Like my character has a huge fear of failing or not being the best at everything.

    I think my plots and my characters come together. There are just certain characters I know are perfect for certain plots.

  2. I’m cheating. I’m going to use NaNoWriMo as an incentive to FINISH the rough draft of the MS I’m already working on. It’s at about 21,000 words, so that’s still at LEAST 40,000 more that I’ll have to do during November. I’ve got the characters down pretty well, and I know the plot/timeline of the subplot, but the main one I’m doing as a pantser because I just can’t outline that much without killing creativity.

    I still have more research I need to do and I’ll try to have that done by Nov. 1 also.

    Good luck to everyone!

  3. I thought I was a character-first writer, but for some reason I am having the hardest time getting there with my project. Scenes and plot ideas are coming to me, but my characters? At this point they are still just pieces on a chess board — most of them don’t even have names yet — and I HATE it.

    November 1 is coming all too quick for me!

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