How to Meet Your Characters Without Doing Tons of Character Worksheets

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve probably come across that one blog that suggests character interviews is the solution to every writer’s writing block. Then they’ll give you a long fill-in-the-blank worksheet that has questions entirely irrelevant to your character’s interests. Why do you want to know about their love life? Who cares if they have a theme song? And they don’t have time for sports — the world is at stake, for Pete’s sake!

I will say that Charahub is a pretty legit place for these kinds of questions, but I personally think interviews are mostly useless unless you’ve already got a pretty good grasp on the character’s main interests that pertain specifically to the plot of your story. Only after you figure out their most immediate concerns (saving the world), can you focus on love lives and sports.

That being said, over the years I’ve discovered different ways to learn your character’s psyche — and some of these ways I’ve never heard recommended anywhere else.

Know Your Characters

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Heritage Foundation Artwork

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My dad was working on a presentation at the Heritage Foundation in the coming week or so, and asked if I would be willing to illustrate a few of his key points in the PowerPoint. He wanted me to depict how someone would feel if their employer treated them different ways and asked for the three emotions of “beaming,” “crushed,” and “frustrated.”

I also screen recorded the process and put together a speed art video below.

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Kindergarten Tree Mural

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The school administrator asked me if I’d be willing to spruce up the kindergarten classroom in the school (because at the time, all the classrooms were white walls — soo prison-like!). I readily agreed and worked with the teacher on what the mural would look like. She wanted a tree she could use to teach the seasons throughout the year and asked if I’d paint the tree without leaves. After a week of work, I called it finished and watched as the kindergarten teacher added leaves for the beginning of the school year.

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Film Artwork for ‘Pursuit of Grace’

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A friend asked me if I’d be able to do artwork for a film he was working on for the Bob Jones festival competition at Bob Jones University. He wanted to incorporate caricatures of his actors into the film as part of the plot and sent me a link to a video of the actors that I could use as reference. I spent about two hours on this piece, and the artwork is featured on the film’s website, pursuitofgrace.com.

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Basement Graffiti

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When we redid our basement, I got the chance to practice graffiti on the cement walls. With graffiti being illegal in most cases (#sadness!), I jumped at the opportunity to do it in my own home. I was sure to take plenty of pictures before the new walls went up, hiding the artwork for the next century.

Freshman College Doodles

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Doodles I did in my free time as a freshman in college.

Top left: I felt like the end of the semester was crushing against me, like two walls closing in as I ran down a long, cement hallway.

Top right: My friend and I regularly ate ramen in the dorm rooms when we didn’t feel like socializing with the outside world.

Bottom left: Going to school in Florida, there aren’t many days where it’s cold enough to pull out a jacket and Doctor Who scarf, so I celebrated the occasion with a doodle.

Bottom right: My first “college doodle,” at the end of the day where the edge of a hurricane hit the panhandle. It was a miserably, cold, wet day.