I thought I knew everything about my characters. I’d put them through rigorous profiling. I had pages of backstory. But then during the editing process, one of my editors asked – ‘how old is this character’? And I realised – I had no idea specifically how old they were now – which seemed like a large oversight!
So I went back to my initial profile form and added in Character’s Age and Birthdate.
Point of the story – the profile list I’ve added below is not the definitive source, it’s a work in progress. There are many others out there, but this is one I’ve put together with the information I personally like to know about my characters, and it’s my usual starting point for all my main characters.
As a side note: a writing friend of mine was looking at this list and said that the things I expected myself to know and understand about my characters, most people didn’t even know about their partners, or even themselves. That really made me think – it also made me fill out my own profiling sheet and force my husband (under great protest) to do the same – with interesting outcomes. So if you’re in the mood for self-discovery or nagging your significant other – give it a go! I actually found filling it out gave me a better understanding of how my characters might approach the questions.
*include a picture of your character if you have someone specific in mind
NAME: (first, last, nicknames, alias)
AGE: (and birthdate)
CURRENT PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES: (occupation, marital status, children, current home, health – physical/psychological)
TALKING STYLE: (accent, fav words/sayings, other languages, trade-mark gestures)
PERSONALITY (basic nature, list of traits, sense of humour, temper, sees himself/herself as…)
Why is character likeable?
Why is character loveable?
EXTRA INSIDE INFO (fav food/drink, fav show/movie/music/celebrities, any pets?, pastimes/hobbies, peeves/loves/hates, guilty pleasures, habits/destructive behaviours?, one thing they wouldn’t tell anyone).
PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE (religion? where are they coming from? what do they want to pass on to their children or others?)
RELEVANT HISTORY/BACKGROUND (family tree, birthplace, major house moves, educational background, work history, relevant medical and psychiatric history, defining moments, major accomplishments, regrets, love life/relationships)
RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER CHARACTERS (how do the other characters in the book feel about him/her? How does he/her feel about the other characters in the book?)