No, I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons. I’m talking about character sheets for the characters in novels. Not to say that I haven’t used D&D to make characters for my novels, because I certainly have. However, Dungeons and Dragons lacks some very important elements for characters in books.

You want your characters to be memorable. You want them to be believable (at least in some ways). You want them to be unique. How do you go about doing that? Well, I’ll start by telling you how I do it. Then I’m going to share some resources I found to help.

However, since I mentioned resources, I’ll actually start with what I use to outline, keep notes, store information, and begin my writing process. Google Docs! Why do I choose Google Docs? Because it’s easy, it’s organized, and I can access it anywhere I want.

The hitch is the internet requirement for using Docs, and it’s true, it’s quite painful to not have access to my documents when I’m not connected to the Interwebs. With that said, I only work when I’m at a computer, and I rarely am not connected.

The Spine

What you see above is the spine of my projects, with each folder being the start of a project I’m working on. Within each of these, I keep the main body of the work, broken down by chapters, and then I have a folder as well that contains notes. It’s in the notes folder that I keep my character sheet.

Now for the structure of my character sheet, or what I prefer to call my Character Portrait. I start with the name. That’s kind of a given. Then I go into physical appearance, but I don’t go into great detail here. Instead, I focus on defining traits. For example, Samara’s people are of a darker complexion like that of the Chinese or Mongolians; however, Samara is paler than most of her kind. Also, she has abnormal, night-blue eyes, almost black, whereas most of her people have brown or hazel eyes.

Next, I focus on the character’s history. Why history over personality? Because history, more often than not, shapes personality. Samara’s people are nomads. Life is difficult for them, and they rely heavily on one another. Therefore, Samara is very selfless, willing to stand up for others. She was also being trained as an apprentice by the tribe’s shaman. She is very devoted to her studies, very curious, and intelligent. When she learns magic, it is with determination and relentless persistence.

After history, I focus on the character’s interests before and during the story (sometimes they can change). I also put notes of significant research in the document. For example, I have extensive notes on childhood trauma and how children are affected by and deal with it.

That’s it. I have extensive write-ups for each of these sections. I don’t spend a whole lot of time developing every little detail of the character, that usually just pops in while I’m writing, and I can fill that stuff into my notes later. However, I still do make D&D character sheets, because it’s fun.

This may not work for every writer, so I’m going to tell you of some programs that I discovered, and one in particular that I’m interested in. I’m going to try using portions of it on my next project.

Bibisco

Bibisco is a free-to-download program that gives you a bunch of amazing features, and if you donate (at least 12 pounds), you get even more amazing features.

I’m only going to focus on the character sheet portion of this program, but it is worth checking out the rest if you need help organizing things like locations, timeline, architecture, themes, scenes, and chapters.

The first step to creating a character on Bibisco is to click on the characters tab. The program will now have two sections on the main screen: main characters and secondary characters.

On the right side is a button that states “create main character.” Click this and it will ask for your character’s name. Type it in and hit save. This will take you back to the previous screen, but now you will have your character listed underneath the section that says “main character.”

Next, click on that character. Here is what you’ll see:

As you can see you, there are five questions: Who is he/she? How does he/she look? What does he/she think? Where does he/she come from? And, Where does he/she go?

Underneath these questions are more buttons. When you click on them, you are given a more in-depth questionnaire about the character. There are a large number of questions there, so I’m not going to go into each one, but for example, the “physical features” button has questions like, “What does his/her shoulders look like?” Very, very detailed lists.

Other programs

I haven’t looked into the details of these, but I found a list over on www.reedsy.com that talks about several options (paid and free) when it comes to software for novelists. Click the link for more details.

So how about it? Do you find yourself using these programs? Do you think they’re useful? Please comment below, and thank you for reading.

~Michael C. Sahd

Assassin Marked

Michael released Assassin Marked in October of 2017. However, Damian made his first appearance long before that, in a short story Michael wrote while still in high school.

Although nothing ever came of the original story, Damian continued to inhabit some primal domain in Michael’s imagination. He finally returned to our world in a dialog practice that Michael wrote for a college writing class. This, too, found itself filed away among many of Michael’s other writings.

Years later, Michael’s wonderful wife (who also happens to be a professional editor) took a look at Assassin Marked. After much persistence from her, Michael made the story what it is today, and Damian emerged from his secret hut, hidden away in Michael’s imagination.

The DuFonte Chronicles

In addition to Assassin Marked, Damian will be featured in future stories and novels in the DuFonte Chronicles, including Lavender Rose.

The DuFonte Chronicles!

Angela (Pooled Ink Reviews) rated it FOUR STARS  “ASSASSIN MARKED is a short story that introduces what is sure to be a very interesting world. Damien seeks vengeance, Victorias loyalties tear her apart, both have a choice to make that will alter the course of their lives. Do they obey orders? Or do they allow love to sway them and death to chase after? This is the story of an assassin marked.  …more

Grace J Reviewerlady rated it FIVE STARS “Firstly, let me say that Im not and never have been anything remotely like a fan of sci-fi. However, I just have to follow that up by saying I LOVED this short story! …more

Amanda (A Brighter Shade of Hope) rated it FOUR STARS “I would recommend this book to anyone who loves science fiction, gunships and assassins or is up for a simple but gripping read set in the solar system. I’m not sure if there are any plans for continuation of the story, but I would definitely love to read more of Damian, Victoria and the ruthless Syndicate in the future.  …more

 

 

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors because he writes about the characters instead of the story. The story just happens to the characters. In this video, Stephen King gives a few pointers.

If writing guides your passions, then Stephen King’s book, On Writing, will provide you with excellent tips.

On Writing Book
On Writing, by Stephen King

I read On Writing, and I feel that it helped me quite a bit. I posted links if you are interested. Sometimes hearing from someone successful can provide us with a little motivation. Which author motivates you to write? Let me know in the comments below.

~ Michael C. Sahd

Beloved
Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison
My rating (on Goodreads): 4 out of 5 stars

They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and that definitely applies to Beloved! When I first saw the book, I thought, “Oh crap! A romance novel.” I was way off. In spite of its ambiguous cover, Beloved is actually a ghost story, resulting from the desperate actions of Sethe, an escaped female slave.

Readers may debate whether Sethe makes good decisions; however, regardless of right or wrong, her actions come back to haunt her, literally. I don’t want to give away the story to prospective readers, but I will say that this book isn’t for everyone. Filled with dream sequences, flashbacks, and memories Beloved flip flops through time in a manner reminiscent of William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf. Love it or hate it, don’t skip reading it.

On a side note: the movie is horrible. No Hollywood flick could ever encompass the grittiness and raw emotion captured by the book. But don’t take my word for it: Read it, watch it, rate it! Let me know what you think.

View all my reviews

~ Michael C. Sahd

My wife suggested I write about my post-publishing nervousness. Between Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and this bloody blog (heh, I like the way that sounds), I’ve been working very hard to get the word out about “Assassin Marked.”

To be honest, I have no idea how to explain my nervousness. It could be the persistent itch to get more of my stories out there. Then again, it could be the fear of not doing well; the nagging question, “Will people like it?” One of my biggest fears at the moment is receiving a terrible review on Amazon.

But enough about that. I really don’t want to write about my nervousness. Rather, I would like to write about my progress. I spent a bit of time today revising some of the fiction piece I’m working on. It’s requiring that I studying the effects of post traumatic stress disorder in children, and the psychological effects of a parent losing his family. A little teaser there.

I’ve also been hard at work composing a more thorough historical time line for Damian’s world in “Assassin Marked.” Not for publication really, just notes for myself to help me remain consistent in my story. But I have many little stories springing up revolving around Damian, or the world Damian lives in.

My six-year-old daughter, on the other hand, decided that her pony needed a haircut for the weekend.

TGIF,

~ Michael C. Sahd

 

Author Michael C. Sahd

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to write something on this blog. I admit, I’m terrible at keeping it up.

This morning, I complained as such to a coworker. He responded, “When I can’t think of anything to write, I like to think up some old memories.” He then proceeded to tell me a story from when he was a teenager, and after which, I shared my own story:

One cold November night, my family was driving through Texas, somewhere in the flat expanses on the west side of the state.

I sat in the front seat next to my father, and my brother and sister were in the back seat. We had just left New Mexico and were on our way back home to Brownwood, Texas.

My father and I were “discussing” religion. Being a staunch Catholic, my father was of the belief that only humans have souls. I, on the other hand, had a taste for something different. The tiring dogma of organized religion left a nasty film in the back of my throat.

The argument centered around the belief of what had souls and what didn’t. I argued that animals indeed had souls and he adamantly denied such a thing. At the time, I believed that in order to exist in a physical realm a spiritual counterpart must also exist, and I stubbornly insisted this was correct.

Off in the distance on this icy night, a bridge quickly loomed into sight, but we were too engrossed in our argument to notice the watch for ice sign.

“Actually,” I said, obstinately, just like any know-it-all teen might, “Even rocks must have souls.”

At this point, my father was furious. Such things were sacrilege, and could lead one straight to Hell. “Rocks . . .” he said angrily, punctuating each word, “Do . . . Not . . . Have . . . Souls!”

Immediately after “Souls!”, our vehicle passed over the bridge and directly onto a patch of ice. The car started sliding sideways. My father over corrected, and we skidded sideways in the other direction. We fishtailed several times before finally crashing gently into the side rails of the bridge.

We were all wide eyed and breathing heavy. My father asked if everyone was alright, checking on each of us individually. When the shock of the crash faded away and my father backed up and continued down the road, I turned to him and said, “See? Sacrilege. You pissed off the spirits.”

My father just ignored me after that, but the memory of that incident will stick with me for the rest of my life.

If you have any stories you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

~ Michael C. Sahd