character profiles

by Jordan

Question: Do you have an example of a complete character profile? In summery what are the most important parts of a character profile and what are the most important questions to ask yourself when trying to create profiles?

Answer: Many people create standard forms - sets of questions really - that they use in creating characters. The trouble with them is that, while there are general questions that apply to most characters, some are less relevant depending on the character or the genre. For instance, there's little point asking what each of your characters' favourite breakfast cereal is if you're writing medieval romance.

In fact, you could probably design your own form quite easily that is tailored to the project you're working on.

For instance, start with what you know about a character, even it it's just gender and approximate age or maybe occupation. Maybe all you know is that you need a good villain. Then write out a list of questions you could ask about this character. Don't answer these questions at first, just make a list.

When you have a good list, go back and start answering the questions.

When you have a lot of information about the character worked out, you can go back and fill in any areas that seem undeveloped. There are three main levels to character.

1. Physical appearance and external traits. This is what a stranger would notice about the character.

2. Stuff the character might reveal about themselves as you get to know them. These include likes, dislikes, interests, relationships, family background, culture, affiliations, education, occupation, skills, weaknesses, etc.

3. Deeper aspects of personality, including emotional drives and motivations, hopes and dreams, attitudes and beliefs, and how the character responds to problems and situations.

You may use some of the same questions for each character in your story, but you'll probably want to edit the list a little to suit each character.

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