I talked about what we don't know about our characters on Monday and the following is part of Robyn's comment: I do like to sketch them out, but excel makes me shake uncontrollably.
Yes, poor Robyn suffers from Excelophobia. It's a horrible, horrible fear that paralyzes a person when they think about using Excel for any reason, let alone sketching out characters.
For me, the Excel worksheet detailing the characters, their traits, likes/dislikes is a nifty tool, especially since I can easily reference the worksheet if I need to mention something about the character such as . . . eyes, hair, clothes, makeup (whoops, I channeled Evita there for a minute - love that musical, btw) . . . because sometimes, I forget the color of eyes, hair, whatever when I'm in the middle of writing. The Excel worksheet also helps with consistency. I don't want Character A driving a Honda in the first part of a book and then all of a sudden he/she is driving a Ford. Now, most people wouldn't notice. I would, it would drive (pun, intended) me nuts and I'd have to stop reading and flip back through to whatever page mentioned that Character A was in love with his/her Honda Hybrid. Then, I'd be like hmmmm, now why is Character A suddenly driving a Ford Focus? Yes, I would. I'm crazy like that . . . sometimes.
The Excel worksheet keeps me on my toes, and looks something like this . . .
The above is just a mock-up of a character worksheet. I put in the information that I'm going to have to remember at a later date. What's a character's favorite . . . book, movie, drink, order at the local Mexican restaurant? How tall is a character? Is the character married, single, or partnered? Is he/she an only child? If not, how many siblings? Where does the character work?
Now, to some people, this might seem needless information. For me, it all depends on the context of the book. In Margarita Nights the characters meet at a Mexican restaurant, drink margaritas (of course, thus the title of the book), and eat. So, I need to know what they eat. In same book, there's a bit of a discussion about books, thus the favorite book category. I also reference the characters family - His sister's in town . . . - at certain points, so it's important (for me) to know that Character A has one sister and one brother. It's also important to know that Character A has a cat, because the cat plays a part in the book as well.
Again, this is just what works for me, and I thought I'd share to try and ease Robyn's Excelophobia! Also, this worksheet doesn't go into intimate details about the character, and there is so much more that I could add. In the end, it's all up to the writer to decide what is needed, or not, in such a worksheet.
How about you? How do you keep track of your characters' traits, eye color, hair color, etc? Do you use an Excel worksheet? Some other format? Share! Knowledge is power, after all . . .