One way to make sure you know your characters is to create a 6-word biography for them.

by Priscilla du Perez via Unsplash

Examples from my middle grades novels (from the oldest character to the youngest):

(Great) Uncle Toban: Hope renewed. Beloved uncle. Valued partner.

Grama Kawa:

  • Matriarch, raising littles, joy after despair.
  • World Lost. Family Found. Grateful heart.
  • Survivor. Making family stronger. Rooted again.

I got a little carried away. All of those fit her. The last is most relevant and most her.

Nephil: Husband. Woodworker. Teacher. Uncle. Son. Content.

Meridi: Second life. Wife. Mother in waiting.

Pali: Woodworker. Daughter. Double Sister. Loved. Loved?

Jem: Jeweler-to-be. Underappreciated. Moving towards goals. Soon.

Dielli: Impatient. Trader in waiting. Learning everything.

Jeska: Having fun already. Pre-apprentice premier jeweler.

by Josh Applegate via Unsplash

Examples from a chapter book:

Mrs. E: Seeking identity in important work. Lost.

Mr. E: Focused father. Home employee. Second fiddle. From this I learned he wasn’t too thrilled about his wife traveling for work. Sometimes you learn things you didn’t know you knew about your characters.

Ezra: Good friend. Smart. Right must prevail.

Suzi: Loved. Family. Friend. Wounded, rejected, other.

Crunch: In a hurry to live, love. Again, I learned something. Crunch lost an older sibling before he was old enough for school. He doesn’t talk about it. His friends only know he is always in a hurry.

Yukari: Bridging two culture. I’ll be me. Not I am me. Not sure of herself in either American or Japanese culture. Loves both, just unsure of which part of her life goes with which culture and how to adapt when she is in the other.

Mrs. Stewart: Growing/learning teacher. Happy wife/life.

Examples from my picture books:

Persephone: TCK. Living flamboyantly. Looking for friends.

Willow: Invisible. Living on the periphery. Me.