Fiction,  Writing

NaNoWriMo Preptober: My Favorite Technique for Character Design

Have you ever downloaded a character worksheet from Pinterest (or other online resource) and you were just overwhelmed with how many choices you had to make?

From eye color to hair color to favorite food, there are so many decisions and, especially if you’re doing Preptober for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), you have to make them quickly. Let me share one of my favorite techniques to make character creation simple and fun!!

To see how I do this technique in real time with examples, make sure you watch the YouTube video!! 

Character creation takes time, but when you’re prepping for NaNoWriMo, time isn’t necessarily something you have an abundance of, so you grab one of those worksheets online and get to work…but soon you start to get overwhelmed.  Enter my favorite tool ever, Tarot cards!!

Tarot cards lets you quickly answer those online character worksheets – seriously, I did one whole example in my video in 20 minutes!! – and create a real human that you can then use for November (or anytime you are creating characters).  

Start off by thinking about which character you want to create – protagonist, antagonist, side kick, hero, etc.  And if you have a general sense of your genre, it helps.  Grab your favorite tarot deck – I suggest one that has people on it, but you do you – give it a good shuffle and start pulling cards.

I do one card per section.  So my worksheet had sections for Physical Characters, Story Information, and Likes/Dislikes so I started at the top and pulled my first card.

My physical characteristics started with things like Hair Color, Eye Color, Age, Body type, etc.  I used my King of Wands card to determine that my Main Character has red hair, green eyes, will be 18 years old – a senior in HIgh School, and a slender/athletic body type.  

I do this by looking at the figure or main focus of the card first, then looking at background details, colors, and anything in the foreground. For the red hair in my example above I actually used the main figure’s red pants and not her actual hair color on the card.  The green eyes I picked up from the leaves growing on her wand staff.   

Things to think about…

  • There is no wrong answer, there’s only YOUR answer, the trick with using Tarot is picking up on small details and going with your first gut response.  Remember you can always change things as needed when you start writing or when you figure out other characters. 
  • I tend to pull one card per section, but there’s nothing stopping you from pulling one card for each question – so one card for eye color, one for hair color, etc. You can use one deck or multiple decks – this is YOUR project, your novel, you get to decide. That’s the fun part!
  • Make sure you’re keeping notes, writing things down as you go or recording yourself in some way as alot of info can come up while doing this process.  You might be filling out the characteristics but then get a really great idea for story or plot, write it all down!
  • I got a name during my live example, but most times I have to look up meanings or think of names later – and that’s fine if you don’t get 100% filled out in one session, but I bet you’ll be super close. Naming characters is extremely hard for me, so it’s sometimes easier to do that later with a baby book in hand.  

Have fun, don’t do too many characters at once – I can usually comfortably work up 3 in one writing session before I need a longer break. Make sure you have some rewards/snacks so you can celebrate your accomplishment and get ready for next week when we will talk about Story Structure.

And if you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year and would love some accountability I’m running a free group where I’ll be sending out tips and tricks, tarot spreads, writing exercises, things to try and during November I’ll run weekly co-writing Zoom calls so we can up our word counts together.  I would love it if you’d join me.