Saw this incredibly fun character chart in a bunch of life-saving diagrams over on BuzzFeed:
The floating skull -- that's what has been missing from my writing life all these years! I call dibs.
Honestly, when I saw the chart I really thought it was a brilliant approach to characterization solely because of the stick figures. Everyone can draw a stick figure, and if you wanted to illustrate your story crew something like this would be perfect (and simple enough to make.)
The chart also gives you a one-glance look at your story crew, which after five or six chapters can often be difficult to herd, much less envision all at once. The archetypal categories on the Buzzfeed chart are for fun, but you could do a serious version with the same sort of role names for your characters: the protag, the antag, the sidekick, the dark horse, the love interest, the first victim, the floating skull, etc. Okay, maybe not the skull, but you get the general idea.
The other element about this chart that is seriously awesome is that the creator was having fun with the idea. Often taking everything about our stories so seriously leads to much stress, angst, sleepless nights, wrinkles, formation of stomach ulcers etc. The chart is a good reminder to give yourself enough creative space to have fun with your characters (and everything in your story, for that matter.) Writing is very hard work, but there's no reason you can't have a good time with it, too. Based on my own experiences, I think the more you enjoy your process, the more likely you'll be to stick with your story and actually finish it -- and possibly write something that has real potential.
Related PBW links:
ABCharacter is a quick and easy way to outline any character's personality
Get your game on by designing your own Character Trading Cards
Use colors to help explore and define your characters with From Focus to Palette
How to make your own Character Art
Ten Things to Help with Creating Character Names
(Found the Buzzfeed chart via another link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)