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How to Develop Character Profiles

Updated on December 10, 2016

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To state the obvious, writing a fiction story necessarily involves creating a cast of characters. Except, perhaps, for the hero or heroine, the characters in the story may not require empathy on the part of the reader. Character traits can run the gamut from honesty and bravery through laziness or foolishness to conniving or downright criminality. The key to reader acceptance, however, forever remains character believeability or authenticity.

The Character Profile

To create believability in a fictional character, it helps to generate a character profile. In fact, creating profiles for the characters in a story can facilitate formulating a consistently logical plot line. Believable characters, acting out realistic scenarios, go far in the writer's efforts to produce a convincing and entertaining story.

Constructing a character profile, on the face of it, would seem quite simple. Commonly, a writer will pose a series of questions concerning one of the individuals that will appear in the story, writing down answers to each question in turn. Depending on the number of questions proposed, the profile may take some time to complete. However, the more questions the writer puts down, and answers, the better the expanding profile will create a believable character the writer can work with in the story.

A character profile of questions and answers usually follows a fairly straightforward exercise in the form of a questionnaire having several headings such as, Vital Statistics, Physical Attributes, Personality Traits and Genealogical Background. Under these headings, the writer will list as many questions as he or she deems necessary to fully develop a character profile.

Vital Statistics

Under this heading, resolve the essential facts about the character. These would include his or her name and/or nickname, age, nationality or ethnic origin, occupation, special talents, siblings, spouse, children and lover(s).

Physical Attributes

A character's physical appearance would include height, weight, hairstyle (long, short, parted, pompadour), hair and eye color, skin color or race, face (long, round, gaunt weathered), general build, state of health, unusual physical features, style of dress and other features an acquaintance might observe.

Personality Traits

This section of the profile would deal with discernible attributes or mannerisms a character might exhibit: extrovert or introvert, calm or explosive, judgmental or tolerant, thrifty or extravagant, selfish or generous, self-confident or timid, rude or well-mannered, decent or vulgar, boisterous or placid. A character might reveal one or more of these attributes or a combination of two or more.

Genealogical Background

A character's family history, though it may not become a part of the story as such, would help round out his or her personality in the writer's mind. Include here answers to such items as birthplace, ethnicity, religion or faith, family traditions and family history, grandparents, aunts and uncles, famous ancestors, infamous ancestors.

The key to reader acceptance, forever remains character believeability or authenticity.

Working Model

The foregoing offers a somewhat abridged blueprint or model a writer can follow in constructing a character profile. The writer may develop a quite extensive questionnaire or a very simple pattern of questions and answers, depending on personal preference and how detailed a character profile the writer wishes to work with. Once prepared, the outline can be used over and over to help the writer bring character after character to life.

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