How to Build the Perfect Character Profile
A well-organized manuscript starts with a great character profile.
Keeping track of a large cast of characters can be daunting. You’ll need to remember names – and nicknames, too. Hair color. Eye color. Height and build. Notable scars or beauty marks. Personality quirks. The family tree. And of course, let’s not forget how each character ties into the storyline. It’s all about the arc!
In the beginning, this will seem manageable. It’s just a few names, right? Cake.
By chapter eleven, things will seem…well. Less manageable. Suddenly you have nine notable characters, each with their own unique profile (and if they don’t have a unique profile, you have an entirely different problem on your hands). One character has blue hair. The other, blonde. And who had those dreamy hazel eyes, again?
You can’t remember. Because you didn’t write it down.
To combat this problem, most writers create what I like to call an organic profile. This is typically a writer’s first pass at organizing their cast of characters, where they jot down details as they go, pooling the information in a separate, disjointed document for their personal reference.
An organic profile is a great start. But when you’re seventeen chapters deep and desperately need that one, tiny detail to perfect your latest scene, an organic profile just won’t cut it.
A great way to avoid this inevitable problem is to create a well-rounded character profile. But what, exactly, constitutes a well-rounded profile?
I’m so glad you asked.
A great character profile will include the following four elements:
Pro tip: I recommend diving deep for your main character(s). To save time, you can shave off elements of the profile for your side characters.
Below is an example of the type of character profile I use for my main cast. This profile is extremely detailed, and will allow you the chance to get to know your main character in new, unexpected ways!
Character Profile [Main Template]
Where does the character live now?
Scars/beauty marks/other notable features
Style of dress
Accessories (i.e. glasses, jewelry, watch)
Relationship with siblings
Relationship with parents
Relationship with other relatives
Neat or messy
What does the character fear?
What is the character ashamed of?
What is the character proud of?
How does the character see himself/herself?
How is the character seen by others?
Do you like this person? Why or why not?
What is the present problem?
How it will get worse?
What is the character’s goal in the story?
What traits will help/hurt the character in achieving this goal?
What makes the character different from similar characters?
Why will readers remember this character vividly?
What is the larger problem that spans across the series?
How will he/she struggle with this problem?