Character sketches are outlines that offer huge insight into a fictional personality used in a story. In my case, my sketches grow and refine as I go along. When a character first comes along, I set up a sketch that provides some background and back story that helps round out who that person is and what might be expected of him or her.
The more I use a character, the more detailed the sketch becomes. Of course, he or she needs to stay true to that sketch. Motivations, actions, and relationships remain consistent for the fictional personality to stay true and believable. Sometimes, I go back to the sketch and flesh out some details that help refine the personality and bring actions and motivations in line.
The reader, though, doesn’t see all that. The sketch is the well on which I draw as the character moves through a story. What he or she says or does, how he or she responds to people and events, and why is there in the sketch. When the reader sees some action, dialog, or event, it should seem logical and right for that individual. That’s because the character is behaving consistently with the background information in the sketch.
The reader gets some information each time the character speaks or acts in the story. While there is no “info dump” on the reader based on the sketch, there are sneak peaks into the character. These provide insight and allow the reader to grow in understanding of the character as the story progresses and the fictional personality advances through his or her story arc.
But, the reader doesn’t see all the nitty, gritty details of the character sketch because they don’t need to. They see the characters as they develop and form by the story. Readers encounter the character much as they would in life, learning about someone as they go.