Writing a character “cheat sheet”

Creating a character cheat sheet

Creating a character cheat sheet

One  big advantage to writing picture books is there aren’t very many characters, so they are unlikely to change names as the story goes on!

With my chapter books, characters have been known to change names part way through the story, even the school in Swallow Me, NOW! changed names in an early draft! I started a new story the other day, and one character changed name from one page to the next! (That’s what happens when you are writing in 10 minute lots of time!)

In order to keep track of my characters, I’ve started a character cheat sheet.

This is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of each character… it’s just a list. The only information is the name of the character, their age if it’s relevant to the story, the relationship to the main character, and any other important names, such as nicknames or online usernames, that is important to stay consistent through the story.

As I add a new character, I add them to the list. I have this document open in parallel to my manuscript so I can easily refer to it or add to it as needed. I’m sure that more detail will be added to the characters as I go when there are things that I need to remember throughout the story, such as the football team they go for, or the fact that Aunty Alice makes the best pavlova.

What started out as a plan to work out the ages of my main character’s brothers, is turning into an extremely useful reference list.

I have a similar list with my Green Oaks Primary School series as I need to keep the characters consistent from book to book. I have put this list on the website here if you want to see what I’ve done. This list is sorted by class and the teachers, support staff, and anyone with a special role, such as the school captains, are listed. Some characters you will have met in Swallow Me, NOW! and others are coming in Cubing for CFS and book 3 (which I’m working on right now).

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