As part of the “Let It Suck” series of posts, I wanted to discuss how knowledge of your characters informs writing decisions, and this post seems crucial to include, so I am reprinting it as a companion to this week’s new post. I hope it helps.
Here we go….
Screenwriting guru Syd Field once wrote “Plot is character, character is plot” He was and continues to be right. If we want to improve our stories, one way to do so is to improve our characters.
How? Well, the more we know about a character the more choices we will have when writing about him or her.
One great way to get to know your characters is by filling out a profile sheet on each of them.
Writers who know deep background on their character write with more authority and depth about those characters. No bit of knowledge is too small; everything informs. I’ve created the character profile below after losing a cherished profile given to me in a writing class long, long ago in a college far, far back in my memory.
Is this one complete? Probably not, but these 110 profile elements definitely will serve as a strong start and work well in getting you to really know your characters. Feel free to fill out a profile for as many of your characters as you need. The more the better.
With that in mind, open up to these questions, answer them thoughtfully, and you will find yourself knowing your characters and writing about them with significantly more confidence and depth.
Vision (20/20, 20/60….)
Measurements (men) chest/waist/inseam (women) bust/waist/hips
Preferred style of dress
Style of work clothes (suit/uniform/casual…)
Style of non-work clothes (sweater/rock group T-shirt, button down, crop top…)
Financial account balances (savings/checking/credit cards/loans/stocks…..)
Length of time at that job
What did character want to be as a child?
What did character want to be as a college student?
How did character get from those aspirations to where s/he is now?
Favorite job and why
Worst job and why
Plans for retirement
Passions away from work
What does this person do with his/her free time?
What does s/he do most often when by her/himself?
Full current address
Where did s/he grow up?
What was that place like?
With whom did s/he grow up?
Best childhood memory
Worst childhood memory
Still in contact with that childhood friend? Why or why not?
First sexual encounter (who? What? Where? Why? How?)
Best sexual experience and why
Worst sexual experience and why
First love (where did they meet? How did the relationship start? How long did it last? How deep into the relationship -physically and emotionally a did it go? Why and how did it end?)
How was his/her school experience?
Best school memory and why
Worst school memory and why
Favorite subject and why
Least favorite subject and why
Favorite teacher and why
Favorite quote from teacher
Least favorite teacher and why
Scariest moment from childhood and why
Funniest moment from childhood and why
Best moment with a parent and why
Worst moment with a parent and why
Parents financial picture while character was growing up
Favorite teen memory
Worst teen memory
Favorite college (or early 20s) memory/moment
Worst college (or early 20s) memory/moment
What pushes his/her buttons/gets him/her angry?
Favorite snack when happy
Favorite snack when sad or angry
Is s/he handy with tools?
What tech does s/he use and how often/ how well/for what reasons?
What social media does s/he use how often and how well and for what reason?
Has character ever used online dating?
Ever have a one night stand?
Ever have an unusual romantic encounter?
Ever cheated on someone?
Ever been cheated one?
Any unusual encounters?
Current religious level of affiliations or reason character abandoned religion
Political affiliations or beliefs
All-time favorite movie and why
All-time favorite song and why
All-time favorite book and why
All-time favorite television show and why
Which sports teams does character root for and why
How are character’s sleep patterns?
Average hours of sleep per session?
Restful or fitful sleep? Why?
Favorite physical activity
How well can character run and why?
Does character tend to be hot, cold, or comfortable in his/her environment?
Describe community where character lives – country? Suburbs? City? Outer space?
Describe the environment where the character works in exacting detail
What does s/he dream of these days?