Facets Of Fiction

Excel Character Sheet (1)

Instead of working yesterday, I spent the day designing a new character sheet.

My problem is that my characters evolve very quickly. I start out with a bunch of walk-on characters and within half a book they’ve evolved into full-blown characters with their own stories. And I’m really sick and tired of having to switch from this character sheet to that one, or having a one-size-fits-all sheet that ends up 90% blank for some characters. And then I have characters across multiple books and I need to keep track of changes they make within each book.

So my challenge was to make one character sheet that would take me from wallpaper character to primary character, without having to redo stuff or have tons of blank pages cluttering up my notebook. At the same time making it accessible, easy to use, and print nicely.

I ended up working it out in Excel, using its outlining feature.

When the outline is collapsed, it is about 1/2 a page long and with the basics of what’s needed for a walk-on character. I could probably collapse it more, but it’s not overwhelming to fill out for a walk-on.

Then as the character grows, there are two more layers of outlining that can be expanded, with the fourth being basically interview questions if you want to know more about your character than you probably know about yourself.

So here it is, if you’re interested: Excel Character Worksheet

I don’t think you have to be an Excel expert to use it. Click on the “+” signs on the left hand column to expand a section. At the very top of the column that has the +’s are the numbers 1-4, click on a number to expand the entire level of that outline. You can put all your characters into one Excel file by adding more worksheets. (2002: Insert->Worksheet, 2007: down at the bottom by “Sheet1″ there is a tab to insert new worksheet) To change the name of a worksheet just double-click on “Sheet1″ and type the new name. In 2002, I discovered that if you “copy” worksheets then it truncates the text fields to 256 characters, so just make new worksheet, select contents of original sheet and paste it into the new one. The color-coding was just so I know what level of outline things are on. And if you’re crossing multiple books with a single character, I’d just add another set of rows under each category and label it with book number, so you know how the character evolves with each book.

If it’s useful, you’re welcome to use it. If you have suggestions, comments, changes, let me know. 🙂

Addendum: If you’re using Excel 2003 or older, you’re going to run into problems with this file because of some limitations in Excel that they’ve finally fixed in 2007:

  1. The total number of characters that can display in a cell: <2003> 1k (when the text is formatted); <2007> 32k or as many as will fit in the cell (regardless of formatting)
  2. The number of characters per cell that Excel can print: <2003> 1k; <2007> 32k
  3. The number of characters that can be stored and displayed in a cell formatted as Text: <2003> 255; <2007> 32k

I’ve been avoiding learning 2007 up to this point, but I guess if I like my new character sheet, I’m going to have to learn the blasted program.

Addendum 2: Except of course that the maximum row height in 2007 is still 409 whatevers, so still mucking with stuff to get it to do what I want.

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