How to Use Worksheets
Novel Summary Worksheet
Chapter Summary Worksheet
Character Trait Chart Worksheet
Personality Components Worksheet
Character Growth Charts Worksheet
Reproducible Worksheets: How to Use Worksheets At the end of this section are five worksheets that can help you plan your novel and create vivid characters. Every writer approaches writing from a different perspective. Some writers plan in detail before they write a single word. Other writers just start writing and see where they end up. The worksheets can help you regardless of which way you work. If you are a planner, use the worksheets up front. If you are a “see-where-you-end-up” person, use the worksheets after you finish your first draft to make sure that your characters are consistent and that each scene contributes to the resolution.
Do not write on the worksheets provided. Instead, copy them and save the provided sheets as masters. This way, you may use them for as many stories/characters/plots as you wish.
Each worksheet has a heading that includes “Manuscript” and “Page __ of ___”. This is so you may organize your sheets by manuscript, creating complete documentation of each manuscript. An example of how you may want to use the sheets are:
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 1 of 15 Novel Summary
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 2 of 15 Chapter Summary, Chapter 1
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 3 of 15 Chapter Summary, Chapter 2
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 4 of 15 Chapter Summary, Chapter 3
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 5 of 15 Chapter Summary, Chapter 4
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 6 of 15 Chapter Summary, Chapter 5
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 7 of 15 Chapter Summary, Chapter 6
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 8 of 15 Character Trait Chart, Roy
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 9 of 15 Personality Components I, Roy
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 11 of 15 Character Growth Chart, Roy
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 12 of 15 Character Trait Chart, Anna
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 13 of 15 Personality Components I, Anna
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 14 of 15 Personality Components II, Anna
Manuscript: Body Parts Page 15 of 15 Character Growth Chart, Anna
Line-by-line instructions for using each worksheet follow.
Reproducible Worksheet Instructions: Novel Summary Worksheet The Novel Summary Worksheet summarizes the entire novel on one page. Sections of this worksheet have been discussed in various parts of Section Two, The Basics. Using this worksheet should help give your novel focus and direction, and may also be used as an outline for your synopsis. The areas covered are:
Focus Statement – Write one sentence that describes your novel. For a discussion of this, see Section Two, The Basics: Plot. The focus statement will help you keep your novel moving in a forward, progressive manner.
Protagonist – Enter the name of the main character. Be sure to fill out a Character Growth Chart for this character, and, if you wish, a Character Trait Chart and a Personality Components Worksheet. It’d be helpful to enter the Character Statement here as well.
Antagonist –Enter the name of the person or thing that will try to prevent the protagonist from achieving his goal. A detailed discussion of the Protagonist and Antagonist can be found in Section Two, The Basics: Characterization.
Other Major Characters – Enter the names of other characters who play a major role in the novel. If relevant, enter their relationship with the protagonist.
Main Setting(s) – Enter the physical place where most of the novel will take place. In the next worksheet (Chapter Outline Worksheet), setting may be assigned by scene. The setting should include a panoramic vision of the scene, such as the type of area (rural, suburban, urban, etc.), the size of the area, the general location (Southeast, West Coast, Argentina), the landscape of the area (mountains, desert, snow-covered, ocean, etc.). A closer view of the setting is also needed: does most of the action take place in a lavish apartment, the slums, a farmhouse, a coffee shop? Section Two, The Basics: Setting discusses this in more detail.
Time Period Covered – We need to know when the novel takes place (from beginning to ending).
Point of View – Enter the point of view that is used throughout the novel. This may be omniscient, third person controlled consciousness, third person panoramic, second person or first person. See the discussion in Section Two, The Basics: Point of View for more information about point of view. If the entire novel uses the same viewpoint character, you may also enter that here. Otherwise, if the viewpoint character changes by scene, enter the viewpoint character on the Chapter Summary Worksheet.
Tense – Enter the tense—present, past, or even future—that this novel will be told in.
Beginning Summary – Give a sentence or two that describes the situation when the novel starts.
Middle Summary – Give a brief description of what occurs in the body of the novel.
Climax – Give a summary of what happens in the turning point of the novel.
Resolution – Give a summary of how the novel ends.
Reproducible Worksheet Instructions: Chapter Summary Worksheet The Chapter Summary Worksheet allows each chapter to be broken into a series of scenes. The number of scenes per chapter will vary by writer. If more than two scenes are used in a chapter, use multiple copies of the worksheet, numbering each sheet to maintain order.
The top of the Chapter Summary Worksheet provides a place to enter the name of the manuscript, the page number of this page in the novel outline packet, and the name or number of the chapter. If chapters have titles instead of numbers, it may still be useful to assign a chronological number to help keep them in order.
Each scene section begins with a place to enter the scene number, as well as the total number of scenes (you may enter either the total number of scenes in the chapter or in the novel, whichever you prefer). A place is provided to enter the following information about each scene:
Location – Enter the physical location of the scene. Be specific. Is it in a townhouse? On a boat? In a hay wagon? On Fifth Avenue? In a seafood restaurant? Also, enter any other pertinent information about the setting here: the weather, the lighting, the sounds in the background (or the foreground), the smells, and so forth. Mention as many things as you can think of, even if you don’t use them all.
Time – Enter the date this scene takes place (yes, it is important to enter the exact date here, even if you do not mention this at all in the scene. See Section Two, The Basics: Setting for information on why this is important). Also enter the day of the week (print out a calendar if you need to), the time of day and any other information you may want to include.
Viewpoint Character – Enter the name of the character whose viewpoint this scene will be seen through. You may also want to mention here the state of mind of the viewpoint character. Preferably, a scene should have only one viewpoint character. It is also possible that the narrator will be the viewpoint character.
Summary – Enter a brief description of the scene, including the purpose the scene serves.
Notes – Enter any other information that should be known. Examples of this are: historical events that occurred on this date, music that was popular on this date, the physical or mental condition of the characters involved and so forth. You may also want to mention here if the scene includes any special effects, such as a dream sequence, a flashback, etc.
Remember, entering information on the worksheet doesn’t mean you have to mention it in your manuscript. However, it is important that you, the author, know exactly what is going on all the time.
Reproducible Worksheet Instructions: Character Trait Chart The Character Trait Chart allows us to assign basic physical, mental and emotional traits to our characters. Following are things to keep in mind when filling out this chart:
Full name – a character’s name is very important. Surely, different types of people come to mind when we hear the names “Bubba” and “Thurmond Elton Radclift, III.” Therefore, we must carefully consider both the first and last names of our character, as well as his or her nickname. Consider the character’s age, ethnic background and social status in naming your character. A good quality Book of Baby Names (with meanings, preferably) is a great addition to your reference library. The telephone directory can help to find last names; there are also websites and books that list surnames by ethnic origin.
Besides the character’s official name, we also need to know what he is called (and, perhaps, what he prefers to be called). All of this information should be recorded in the “full name” block.
Date of Birth – we should carefully consider assigning our character a birthday. Even though I am not a follower of astrology, I check my character’s sun and moon signs, as this helps in fleshing out the character. I also check for important historical occurrences on both the day of birth and during the character’s developing years of life (any of us who know people who lived through the Great Depression know that they have been affected by that).
Age – since your book can take place in any year, it is good to have an idea of how old your character is in addition to his date of birth. If your novel covers several years, include the age span.
Sign – if you’ve checked your character’s zodiac sign, enter it here. A discussion of how this affects (or doesn’t affect) your character is presented in Section 3.
Address – this can be as detailed or as vague as you wish, but it should answer a few questions: does the character live in a large city, the suburbs, a small town or deep in the country? Does he/she live in the United States or elsewhere? If in the States, which region? What are the economics of the neighborhood/area/region?
Race/Ethnic Background/Nationality – again, give some thought to this, as a person’s heritage often plays a big role in who he is and who he becomes, and helps us to understand his background.
Height – this doesn’t need to be specific. “Tall” or “average” is fine unless it is a defining characteristic of the character.
Weight/Body Build – again, we don’t really need to know a character’s exact weight, only if he or she is stocky, slender or “had a figure that . . .”
Hair – keep in mind the character’s ethnic background in assigning hair and eye color. Of course, you do not always have to assign typical coloring to your characters, but if you don’t, you’ll need to explain. You may also want to mention the length of the character’s hair, the style, and the type (curly, wavy, straight).
Eyes – besides the color of the character’s eyes, also include the shape, length of lashes, shape of brows and anything else peculiar to this character. This is a good place to be creative in listing the eye color. Instead of “brown,” try “copper” or “chocolate.” Instead of blue, be specific: sapphire, aquamarine or crystal blue.
Peculiar Physical Traits – list any peculiarities of your character’s appearance here. Does his left eye twitch when he lies? Does he chew his lip when apprehensive? Does he smoke? What? What brand? How often? If he wears eyeglasses, what do they look like? Does he wear contacts? Does he have any moles, scars or birthmarks? Any nervous habits? This is often a key to the personality and, if used consistently through the manuscript, helps the reader identify the character.
Smell – everyone has a smell. It can be the clean smell of deodorant soap, the strong smell of a specific perfume or aftershave, the musty smell of old age, the tell-tale smell of stale beer. Of course, a character’s smell can change from scene to scene, but try to imagine what he/she typically smells like on an average day.
Voice – does he have a deep, resonant voice? Does she have a throaty voice or a squeaky voice? Does his voice crack? Does she usually shout or whisper? Can he carry a tune? Is his tone pleasant or grating? Does she speak with perfect grammar or slur her words? Does he insert an expletive between every second word? Which one or ones? Does he have a distinguishing laugh? Does he talk rapidly or slowly?
Usual Walking Style – does he limp? Is he always in a hurry and runs everywhere he goes? Does she skip? Wiggle?
Health – does your character have any health problems or weaknesses? Does he/she walk with a limp, have a plastic jaw, suffer from migraines? Arthritis? How is his/her blood pressure? Is he a walking heart attack, or does she run five miles every morning before dawn? How does he feel about his health? Is she a hypochondriac? Or has she never been to a doctor in her life?
Mannerisms – what else distinguishes this character from everyone else? Does he greet people with a hug? Do his hands move when he talks? Does he snap his fingers regularly? Does he shrug his shoulders? Does he slouch? Have military-like posture? Does he slurp? Burp? Gulp? Eat on the run? Prefer steak or hamburger? Sushi or spaghetti? Eating out (and where) or at home? Big meals or small? Is he polite or piggish?
Style of Dress – what type of clothes/shoes/accessories does he/she wear? Does he have a favorite flannel shirt he wears every Saturday? Does she apply makeup before breakfast? Is his dress impeccable or gaudy? Trendy? Casual? Classic? Expensive? Second-hand? Matching? Scuffed? Any peculiar tastes in clothes/shoes/accessories? What is his favorite article of clothing?
Preferred Drink – what does he normally drink? Jack Daniel’s and coke? Long-neck beer? Pepsi Cola? Nehi Grape? Coffee with extra cream? Perrier?
Preferred Music – is he a rock ‘n roll fanatic? Does he like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Mozart or Beethoven? Maybe Hank Williams. Or Travis Tritt. Or Frank Sinatra or Herb Albert or Hip Hop or Rap. Be specific.
Occupation – what does he do for a living? Where does he do it at? What is his proficiency at his job? Is it his job of choice?
Social Class – is he wealthy? Deeply in debt? Does he run with the jet set? Is he happy with his social class?
Education – how much schooling has he had? What kind of schools has he attended? Does he have any college degrees or military service?
Intelligence – does he thrive in any situation he’s placed in? Does he barely get by? Does he have common sense?
Birth Order – it’s often been discussed that first-borns have different personality traits than last-borns, single-birth individuals have different traits than multiple-birth individuals. A discussion of this is in Section 3.
Marital Status – is your character married? Divorced? Single? How does he feel about his status?
Sexual Orientation/Values – is your character heterosexual? Homosexual? Does he have any unusual orientations? Is he promiscuous? Loyal?
Political Views – is he Democrat or Republican? Or Independent? Is he conservative or liberal? Are politics important to him?
Religious Beliefs – does he have a formal religion? Does he believe in God? Satanism? New Age Spiritualism? Is he a hard-core atheist? What is the depth of his belief?
Views on Money – what are his spending habits? Is he a saver or a spender? Is money important to him?
House – what type of house or apartment does he live in? How does he feel about it? Does he own or rent? Does he take care of it? Is he embarrassed by it?
Car – what type of car does he drive? Does he own it? How does he feel about it? How does he take care of it?
Most important possession – what material possession is most important to him? Why? How long has he owned it? Where did he get it from?
Hobbies/Recreations/Sports – what does he do in his spare time? How important are these activities to him? How talented is he at them?
Talents – does he have any special talents? Is he good with children? A gifted musician? Can he read minds? Predict the future? Bake a killer lasagna?
What is a normal day like for this character? – what is the first thing he does when he gets out of bed? Who is he with? Where does he go? How does he feel about it?
Greatest Fear – what, more than anything else in the world, does this character fear? Being alone? Dying a pauper? Spiders? War?
Major Goals – what does he want to accomplish? How important is it to him? What is he willing to do to accomplish his goals? Is he secretive about them?
Lives with? – who does he or she live with? How does he feel about this person (these people)? Is he happy with this arrangement?
Spends the most time with? – who does he spend the greatest portion of his time with. Why?
Views Family – how does he view his family? Does he feel appreciated? Does he appreciate them? Does he love them? How much?
Family views him – how does his family view him? Do they love him unconditionally? Are they critical? Supportive?
Views Friends – how does he view his friends? Does he seek out their company? Does he think they are a bunch of losers?
Friends view him – how do his friends view him? Do they doubt his sincerity? Know the “real” him? Accept the “real” him?
Views Boss/Co-Workers/Employees – what are his work relationships like? Is he respectful? Arrogant? Defiant? Loyal?
Boss/Co-Workers/ Employees view him – do his fellow workers respect him? Know him? Care about him?
Feelings Toward Animals – how does he treat animals? Is he abusive? Disinterested? Loving? Does he like animals more or less than humans? Is he particularly fond of any certain animal? Does he fear any animals?
Who is his hero? – who does he most admire? Why?
A discussion of the Character Trait Chart can be found in Section Three, Lifecycle of a Character: Conception.
Reproducible Worksheet Instructions: Personality Components The Personality Components Worksheet is simply a two-page list of adjectives that can be assigned to a character. To get the best use of this list, make a copy of it for each character. Then, highlight in yellow the three to six traits that most strongly define this character. Highlight in blue other traits this character displays on an every day basis. Highlight in pink and green traits that only occur in specific situations, such as when drinking, when angry, when in the presence of certain people (such as his mother, wife, boss, mistress), or when placed in extreme situations. List the situation next to the color used to highlight it.
For example, Roy may have the following strong characteristics, which we would highlight in yellow: annoying, downtrodden, ignorant and pretentious. He also has the following characteristics, to a lesser degree, so we would highlight them in blue: bewildered, clumsy, compulsive, daffy, disgusting, dowdy, dumb, dull, excessive, flamboyant, hypocritical, ignorant, immature, immodest, incompetent, inept, insecure, insulting, irreverent, petty, sarcastic, self-absorbed, shallow, sleazy, and sloppy. However, whenever he drinks, he becomes abusive, aggressive, argumentative, belligerent, incoherent, irresponsible, jealous, lewd, obnoxious, and perverted, so these traits we’d color pink. Finally, when he is in the presence of his wife’s youngest sister, he is approachable, charismatic, charming, debonair, good-natured, and macho, so these would be colored green.
This helps us see Roy in different lights, yet allows us to be consistent in portraying him. The bottom of the second page of Personality Components has a place to enter the situations in which the character portrays the chosen traits.
Be sure to write your manuscript name and the name of your character at the top of the page.
Reproducible Worksheet Instructions: Character Growth Chart The Character Growth Chart allows you to add dimension to your characters by giving them the necessary wants, conflicts and resolutions that make them sympathetic and “real.” This chart should be completed in full for the protagonist. Other major characters should have a character statement, but the other sections are optional. The sections of the Growth Chart include:
Character Statement – What, more than anything else in the world, does this character want?
Character Conflict – Who or what must this character overcome in order to achieve his character statement?
Resolution – Does the character achieve his goal? If not, what does he learn in the process?
Character Growth – How does this character change throughout the course of the novel?
Other comments – Use this area to list anything else that is important to this character or that affects his growth or achievement of his dreams.
A discussion of the character statement and growth is located in Section Three, Lifecycle of a Character: Birth.