Getting to Know Your Characters with a Character Dossier

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I recently finished my first semester for my MFA in writing. As you probably know, the workshop is the cornerstone of many writing programs.  It’s where you submit a piece of writing to your fellow students for them to read and critique in class (or online depending on your program). When you have 40 minutes to an hour to go over your writing with a fine tooth comb, the results can be enlightening.

One of the major comments I received on my novel-in-progress was that my two main characters were very similar. Houston, we have a problem. In fact, some of the readers felt they were the same person. Of course, in my head, it’s obvious these are two totally different people. Duh. But, since I can’t be with the reader all the time and explain, I figured I better make my characters stand out and stand apart on the page. No better way to do it than to create a dossier on them. I don’t usually go super in-depth on my characters, I know who they are, the broad strokes and usually over the course of writing the novel (pantser all the way), they reveal themselves to me. The revision process is all about refining and defining them.

This novel though does present a set of challenges because I do have two main characters who are telling the story from alternating POVs and they are very similar.So, it’s time to sit down and do my homework on them.

I created a Word template with a variety of questions about the character and their arc. You can print out the dossier for each of your characters and if you have the Writer’s Notebook, you can add to your binder. Download free Character Dossier.

If you have any interesting questions to add to the dossier, let me know in the comments and I’ll update.

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