Character writing, therapy or both?

I’m learning what makes a character real. I fill out character sheets on each character. I think about them when I'm driving. I watch and listen to strangers for ideas.  But now I have found a new source for character building--my emotions.

This week has been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me that literally drained my body and brain.  I didn't want my experience to go to waste so I decided to chart my emotions in a spreadsheet (oh how I love spreadsheets). I wanted to take a closer look at my "feelings". 

After seeing my emotions on paper (or computer screen) I learned two things: I'm an emotional person AND I can use this chart to create more complex characters. A little pain, a little gain.

This is what I did:
  1. Opened a spreadsheet 
  2. Created headings:  Emotion, cause, my reaction and other people's response to my emotion
  3. Filled in the blanks at the end of the day
  4. Studied the spreadsheet and used the information to help my characters
You can use a chart like this to determine how your character's emotions might push he or she closer to a goal or hold them back. Charting your own emotions can be a reference tool to help you understand and build your characters. It's fun, productive, and also great journaling therapy.

Do you use a spreadsheet for writing? How?  

First image source here 


  1. I have to be very, very careful. If I write down too much ABOUT my characters before I write the story, I lose them. I have to get to know them during the first draft the same way I get to know a real person -- over time. By the end of the first draft, I can answer every and any detail -- but if I write it down ahead of time, the book doesn't get written.

  2. Wow, what an idea! Never thought of an emotional spreadsheet but after seeing yours it makes perfect sense :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. I've never used it for writing but what a great way to keep track of so many things! Thanks for the great idea!

  4. A great idea for working emotions into your writing. For me that would also be a great way to get the emotions out of my system and see how I could do better (or worse) the next time confronted by the problem.

    Thoughts in Progress

  5. No. I don't even know how to create a spreadsheet (gasp!). I'm getting some training, soon, though. Journaling emotions has been my method of choice. Love your organized, easy to spot, style.

  6. Wow, this is brilliant. I think this could come in handy.


  7. Wow, this is great! Thanks for sharing. I'm definitely going to try this.

  8. No, but I have a writer friend who swears by them. I tend to jot things down. She loves them and uses them for just about everything.

    I have lots of journals I've written over the years on emotional responses and causes and what my reactions were as well as *theirs* to my responses.

    Actually, what you're doing is both therapy and creating richer characterization. :-)

  9. I don't use a spreadsheet, but I do write out all of my character's traits and stuff.

  10. I've started doing this more and more! Never used to, but now I find I can't keep up with my characters if I don't.

    I also keep a spreadsheet as a sort of cheat-sheet for my books to remind me of minor plot points, character descriptions and ages, etc. :)

  11. *giggles* Oh, this pleases my Virgo Moon... you see, having my moon in Virgo, I like nothing better than organizing and analyzing emotions... I'm sure it's why my field is psychology. I love that you are using a spreadsheet for this too--very helpful tools! And I think you are spot on that it will give some depth to your characters.

  12. Hi Theresa .. talk about self-therapy too .. let alone character creation .. and as you say you can think about them and mull their characters over ..

    Journaling therapy I can believe ..

    Great thought .. thanks Hilary

  13. What a wonderful idea, JW! Not just because it helps with characterization, but because then you can get your feelings out in the open, assess them, and deal with the appropriate. That perspective helps.

    I hope everything is better now. *hugs*

  14. Great idea, if I did a spread sheet of my life, I fear it would be a comic book.

  15. I'm another one of those people who don't know how to make a spreadsheet. I used to use them in my work at my former job, so it probably wouldn't take much to learn how to do it. Maybe I should try. I might need to know how to make one in my next job.

    I can see where the spreadsheet concept good be useful in many ways in writing in addition to the character analysis. That's some creative thinking, Teresa.

    Tossing It Out

  16. That is a great idea! I find it very helpful tool, indeed.
    I feel I may be doing this today.
    Great post and topic!!

    B xx


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