As writers we often collect copious lists and checklists, or is that just me? I had collected several character development spreadsheets from other generously sharing authors over the years that mine had become fifteen pages long. (Ridiculous!) One day, out of frustration, I said there had to be a better, more cohesive way to organize elements AND incorporate backstory so that I left it on the development page and kept 80% of it OUT of my manuscript. Another bad habit I had was putting the SAME backstory element in more than one place in my manuscript. There had to be a better way of managing that too.
That’s when I decided to meld those ideas together and create a spreadsheet that makes my moon in Capricorn heart happy. If you use something from this spreadsheet, cross if off or make note where you put it in your manuscript (i.e. Chapter 6, scene 2.) Then if you find a better place to slip that backstory in, you can easily find it and remove it there and add in the better place (don’t forget to update your location). This does require a tad bit of discipline, but it will also save your editor and you editing time.
The only element I purposefully excluded was setting. I keep that on a separate list. Sometimes towns and buildings can have their own character based on the backstory. Think of Footloose and the town’s laws changing because four people died tragically.
Also note that this is not character arc–just backstory and key elements to a character. I use Erika Kelly’s character arc spreadsheets to make sure there’s enough flaw/wound/pain to grow through to create the right flow for my books. This is getting to know your character quick and easy.
The pictures of each page are below, but if you’d rather have the actual Excel file in your email (so you have it forever and ever), email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to email the spreadsheet to you. It may wind up in your spam folder, so please check there before getting angry at me for not sending you my sweet file of awesomeness. There are two sizes available–full size and Happy Planner Classic (1/2 page) size.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I love Excel but I also know it frightens people who aren’t as familiar with formatted cells, etc. I’m open to adding more sections or questions…just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your idea.
Happy creating and writing!