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How To Develop Your Book Characters with the VOTE Sheet

One of the most important aspects of writing a good book is having well-developed characters. When an author doesn’t do the work it takes to achieve this, it shows!

In this article, you’re going to learn one of the methods I use to develop my characters. 

Once I’ve brainstormed some basic ideas of what my character looks like acts like, etc. I turn to….the VOTE sheet!

Above is an example of the Vote Sheet I used to create my character, June. This method was taught to me by my high school theater teacher, Robert Kankelberg. We used this in class and in plays to develop the characters in a particular scene we were acting out. This method is famously used by Robert Cohen. 

What does it stand for?

V: Victory

O: Obstacles

T: Tactics

E: Expectations

Victory: What is your character’s main goal? 

When we used this for scenes in drama class, there was usually one main goal or objective the character had. But, in a book, it isn’t unusual for the character to have several main goals. It’s great to have a VOTE sheet for every one of those goals. 

Obstacles: What, or who, is getting in the way of your character reaching their goal? 

This could be people, personal traits of the character themselves, or really any barrier in between your character and getting to their main objective.

Tactics: What tactics or strategies will your character use to reach their main objective? 

You have to ask yourself ‘how will my character reach his or her goal?’ 

Expectation: What does your character expect out of this, and why is it so important to them?

What will your character get out of this? How will it benefit your character? What does it mean to them to reach this goal? Why do they want it? Keep in mind, everything we do, we do it for ourselves. Even when you’re doing something for other people, you are still doing it to benefit yourself in some way: Whether it’s because it makes you feel good to help people, or because you don’t want the uncomfortable feeling you get when you say ‘no.’ It might sound cynical to say we only do things for ourselves, but it is true! Keep that in mind when writing out the expectation, and when developing your characters in general. 

When I write my character’s VOTE sheet, I write is in 1st person, as if it was them writing it. This helps me to really dive into my character’s head. I recommend doing it this way!

If you like this strategy, please share with your friends! Also, subscribe to this blog by heading here. Be sure to check the blog box at the bottom! I will send you a monthly update of all the blog posts I’ve made that month. 

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