Character Profiles

One thing that I have found impossibly helpful is one of the easiest parts of my writing: the character profile. While it can be an incredibly complicated bit of note taking, it can also be as simple as their name, age, height, weight and so on.

The series I am working on writing with my partner (it has yet to see print, but it’s incomplete anyway) has a very vast array of characters. While each individual novel might collect only a handful of these colorful creations, trying to remember the details of all of them is intensely difficult. What’s the remedy to this?

The basic profile is a necessity for every character but the most important for characters with which your POV character (and his cohorts) will be interacting with. These profiles can help incredibly with preventing mix ups (did Joe have brown or black hair? What color were his eyes? Oh yeah, he had a tattoo…) and thereby creating disconnects in stories. While that kind of thing inevitably is caught during the editing process, preventing it in the first place can make one’s life far less of a headache.

My basic character profile template is as follows:

Name:
Race: (I am writing supernatural suspense so this is important.)
Age:
Height:
Weight:
Hair:
Eyes:
Skin:
Build:
Piercings:
Tattoos:
Scars:

These aren’t the only things you can list, of course. Things like “attitude” or “temperament” or even how they feel about the main character might also be beneficial if you don’t have a memory for that kind of detail. These profiles are what I use to keep my characters straight and prevent “bleeding” from one character to another. I have a gang in the first portion of the novel I’m working on now and there are four or five characters that all have similar traits and they tend to sometimes bleed together for me in my head, having these profiles prevents me from making fatal mistakes and writing “WTF” moments into my story.

Not everyone will need these sheets, of course, but I have found the idea incredibly useful. Also, for the series I am writing I have a “character matrix” that is an Excel spreadsheet that has all the basic information about every character in the series listed on it in alphabetical order. It also is color-coded by what book and/or trilogy that they play a role in. This gives me an “at-a-glance” purview of any characters I need to remember or put together, which means that my writing can avoid issues later on.

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One thought on “Character Profiles

  1. Natasha McNeely says:

    This is something I fully agree with and do myself, as well. My profiles are very similar to yours, though I have a copy things added or named differently.
    My average profile looks like this:

    Full Name:
    Nicknames:
    Age:
    Sex:
    Race:
    Hair:
    Eyes:
    Skin:
    Height:
    Weight:
    Predominant Features:
    Figure:
    Birthday:
    Usual Setting (e.g. fantasy realm, sci-fi realm, etc.):
    Friends/Allies:
    Enemies:
    Personality:
    Social Status:
    Likes:
    Dislikes:
    Strengths:
    Weaknesses:
    Goals:
    Other Information (items which may be listed here include family members, class, occupation, etc.)

    While I may not always fill out the more detailed things, it is an incredible help. Especially the Birthdays – I’m horrible with remember most birthdays in real life, so remembering them for my stories isn’t very easy.
    Having a profile to go back to, as you said, is extremely helpful, especially for those who have difficulties remembering specific traits or who mix characters together.

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