“Every character should want something, even if it’s just a glass of water.”
After telling myself over and over that I need to write my character profiles before I add more to my story, it finally happened! I have begun the process of going through all my characters but it’s no where near complete. The more time I’ve spent doing this, the more I’ve realised I need to add and explore. As time consuming as it is, it’s stupidly fun to do.
I did stop and think for a while about how I wanted these profiles to look, and decided upon a simple fact-file style for the time being. Instead of jumping straight in with the fantastic character profiles from Life is Strange, I thought the best way to start would be to get a basic idea of who my characters are. I can then get a sense of their personalities before I attempt to write something from their point of view. It’s definitely something I’m very excited about trying out though.
So character profiles. What are they? They’re ways to make your characters real. To help you to get to know them as if they were a friend or acquaintance. The aim is to write down as much information about that character as possible, building them up in your mind from an entirely blank canvas. They’re yours to create, from their physical appearance to the way they choose to eat their spaghetti. There’s nothing at all holding you back from creating anything you want, and that’s one of the main things I love about the human brain. The possibilities are endless.
I’d recommend taking one of your characters at a time, otherwise you may get a little mixed up, and we don’t want your main character’s best friend turning into your enemy’s brother. That’s confusing enough just reading it! I’ve created the same template for each main character and saved a separate document for each. (If you’d like a copy to use for yourself, just drop me a message.) I decided to explore different parts of my characters in sections.
The first thing I decided to explore about my characters were the basics. Name, age, nationality, family, relationships, etc. These things are very relevant, as they’re the sort of things you find out about any human the first time you meet them. If you’re going to get to know your characters, why not keep it close to reality?
When I revisited my story after a long break and when I completed my free writing exercise, I kept finding that I was confusing my characters with others, even my main character! This really set those alarm bells ringing and pushed me to get started on my profiles, as I obviously didn’t know my characters well enough. If you haven’t got time to create a much more detailed plan, this is the section I’d definitely recommend to have. Of course, doing the whole thing and doing it right is much more helpful and rewarding.
This is a really fun section to do in my eyes. You’ll have an image of your characters in your head, and this is the chance to really take in all those details and put it onto paper (or screen) to look back on. The kind of things I’ve included here are height, eye and hair colour, how they dress and any habits they have that may crop up in your story.
Some characters may feel a lot easier to describe than others, especially when they’re based on someone you know or are close with. Take my main character for example. I see her a bit like I see myself, so this was perhaps one of the easiest characters to describe. However, she likes to go running and that’s something I’m not down with…
Mental/personality attributes and attitudes.
Here I described how my characters see life and if they have any short or long term goals they want to achieve. How is this character perceived by others? What sort of things would this character be embarrassed about? This is the part where you can really dive into their minds and control how they see things through their own eyes.
I think this part could be the trickiest, but once it’s done, I think you’ll really have that emotional connection with your characters that can’t really be erased. Here, you can talk about the things that make your character happy or sad, and how they feel and cope with anger or loss. Once this section is done, I guarantee you’ll be able to write much more easily about these topics.
My protagonist will soon have a huge dilemma on her hands and will shortly be weighing up the pros and cons. Writing her emotional characteristics will be extremely useful here and will make things a lot easier for both of us when coming to a decision!
How the character is involved in the story.
Here you need to describe who they are and why they’re a part of your story. State whether they’re the protagonist or antagonist, or even if she’s just the friendly old lady with the Labrador 3 doors down (providing she’s a main character, of course.) Explain their relationship with other characters that they meet along the way and how their relationship with these characters may change over time. You’re free to take your characters to wherever you want. It’s your story after all.
I don’t necessarily think that creating character profiles is a hard job or a chore. To me, it’s one of the most creative things about writing a story and I really don’t know why I didn’t make them sooner! I’m learning so much on the way and discovering new ways to use my imagination to it’s advantage. That in itself motivates me to continue, and makes me want to do things ten times better than they were before.
What are the sorts of things you’d include in a character profile and also, how are your stories coming along? 🙂