Anyone who has ever even attempted to write a novel or screenplay knows that characters are one of the most important parts. For a novel to be truly successful, each piece should be carefully crafted and perfected.
But, without fully developed, believable, and quality characters, the entire story will fall flat no matter what else it has going for it. This is why it’s crucial that you know how to create a character profile.
A character profile template will be of incredible value to you in this process. It will help you ensure you don’t miss anything.
What is a Character Profile?
A character profile is an extremely detailed outline of every part of your character’s life. A character profile template is broken down into sections and consists of a series of character development questions.
Some questions will be basic while others are very in-depth and thought-provoking. By the time you’ve finished filling out your character profile, you should know every single thing there is to know about this new person you’ve created.
Once finished, however, it may seem overwhelming as well. There is a lot of information and you might be wondering how on earth you’re going to fit it all into your novel or screenplay.
Well, you’re not. Many of the larger details will be included in your story. But, much of the information is for your use only. Having the information is important for you to know your character well enough to write them.
Their actions, reactions, decisions, opinions, and even emotions will be based off who they are at the core. When you know everything there is to know about them, you’ll be able to write all of these things accurately.
If you’re feeling lost in too much information, try using some good writing tools, like Squibler. You can organize each section into a separate document and flip through them at will.
Squibler has many uses. These include organizing research, ideas, notes, outlining, and writing your book. In addition, you can create a section for your character profiles to keep them organized and accessible at the same time.
Use a Book Writing Template
Another thing that Squibler offers is a series of book writing templates. Characters are important, but so is structure. A book writing template will help you plan each section and/or chapter of the book.
The template will provide loose guidelines as you go through the book, which will vary by genre and style. Some are specific while others are more general, such as this novel-writing template:
This template serves as a guide for any genre. You can specialize it further as you dive more into your book and figure out exactly where it’s going.
Make a Character Profile for Every Important Character
Before we get too much further I’m going to make it clear that you’re going to need one of these detailed, in-depth character profiles for each main character of your story.
Most of the time, a novel will have only a single protagonist.
But, they will not be the only important player in the story. There are usually a handful of others. Your protagonist and these other main characters are your round characters and will be most important.
You’ll have a series of additional flat characters that also play a role in the story. While these characters have a purpose, they will not need a character profile done up. There won’t be much to their personality and they won’t change or be developed.
As your story develops and you flesh out your outline, certain details of your characters may change or evolve. This is fine and totally normal – just be sure you keep your character profile template updated.
If something about a character changes, change all relevant information in their profile.
Types of Main Characters
While every story is different and unique, there are a few common types of main characters that might be included in your novel and screenplay, in addition to your protagonist. Each of them will need to have a character profile made for them.
The Antagonist: The antagonist is the character or group of characters who are in direct opposition to your protagonist. They stand in the way of their main story goal and are deliberate in their efforts to stop the protagonist. In some cases, the antagonist can be more of an antagonistic “force.” This could be an oppressive government or organization, or even the inner demons or inherent flaws within the character that stop them from doing what they need to do.
Anti-hero: This is someone who doesn’t have any of the typical characteristics of a “hero.” They aren’t particularly impressive and don’t give you much of a reason to root for them. And yet, they are still central and important to the story.
Confidante: This is someone who knows each and every single detail and true personality of the main character. To this person, they reveal all of their true thoughts, their real intentions, deepest desires, and darkest secrets. If your character is more isolated or introverted, this could even be something rather than someone – perhaps a journal.
Foil: This is a character whose personality contrasts the protagonist in a significant way. They are the opposite of the protagonist in many areas. This can be a separate character, or the antagonist or anti-hero can double as the foil. This character generally serves to highlight the qualities of your protagonist.
Now, with these main characters in mind, follow thee steps to create your character profile template.
The Three Steps of Creating a Character Profile Template
1. The Basics
Once you’ve determined which of your characters will be needing a character profile, it’s time to dive in.
It will be a long process and you’ll be going through a lot of information. Don’t feel like you need to do it all at once. Take it one section at a time.
If you’re struggling to determine certain details or you’re just not sure how your character should be reacting, Deb Norton offers some good advice:
“When were at a loss for putting words in our characters mouths, that’s often when it’s time to stop thinking and start listening. Does his manner of speech change when he talks to his kids? What is he holding back? Why did she use that word?”
As writers, we sometimes tend to overthink a little bit (or a lot). Sometimes, it’s better to write more freely. Channel your character and just let go. You might be surprised at what they reveal on their own.
This first section is pretty self-explanatory and will be one of the simpler ones. It covers the base information about your character and their life.
This includes things like:
- Place of birth
- Current place of residence
- Marital status
2. Physical Appearance
This one may seem self-explanatory as well, but there is a little more to it than some might think. You will be covering your basic physical features:
- Eye color
- Hair color
- Face shape
But, their physical appearance goes a little deeper than this. There are some additional things you will want to consider:
- Do they have any distinguishing marks? (tattoos, scars, birthmarks)
- What style of clothes do they prefer to wear?
- Do they wear glasses or contacts?
- Do they wear accessories or not?
- Is there an accessory or piece of jewelry they never take off?
- What is their level of grooming? (ie – disheveled and natural or style hair, makeup, outfit put together)
- Do they have any chronic illnesses that contribute to their appearance?
You should also consider their demeanor. Are they confident, shy, quiet? Do they walk with their head down, or held high? These things are representative of what is going on inside, but they will be reflected in how they appear to others.
The base of this section focuses on how they talk. Do they speak quickly or slowly? Do they enunciate properly or do they tend to mumble a little bit? How big is their vocabulary?
But, speaking isn’t the only form of communication:
- Do they gesture compulsively, or is it only occasional?
- Do they make eye contact or do they move their gaze around?
- What is their catchphrase?
- Do they ever curse?
- Do they have a speech impediment?
- How do they laugh? Do they make other people laugh?
- What is their smile like?
- Are their emotions easy to read or do they hide them?
- What is their default expression?
Props are something that your character carries around or uses on a regular basis. These props will likely be connected to their personality. It will be something that is important to them or something they find helpful.
- Sherlock Holmes has his pipe.
- Kojak has a lollipop.
- A character who has anxiety might carry something to squeeze or fiddle with to occupy their mind in stressful situations.
- A character who has lost a parent or other loved one might constantly wear or carry an item that reminds them of that person daily.
Thee items can be indicative of a bad habit, a nervous tick, or something in which your character finds comfort.
5. Background and Past
A character’s background and past will play a huge role in their present life. It will have shaped who they are as a person. Even if their history is not a huge part of the story itself, it needs to be known.
It should be known in full by you as a writer. It should also be known, as necessary, by the readers. Reveal things about their past as it becomes vital to the story.
You can start with the basics:
- Where did they grow up? Do they still live there?
- What education do they have? What subjects did they study?
- How was their childhood? Were they neglected, sheltered, raised well?
- Were they involved in any extracurriculars as a child? (sports, dance, clubs, etc.)
- What are some of their happiest, saddest, and earliest memories?
- What were they like as a child?
6. Likes and Dislikes
They may not seem significant, but a character’s likes and dislikes are an important part of their personality. Much of their personal preferences will stem from their background, childhood, family, and influences.
For example, your character might have an intense hatred of a certain food because their mother fed it to them excessively as a child and it brings back bad memories.
Or, their favorite music could be heavily related to what their parents played around the house when they were younger.
For each favorite thing, determine their least favorite. For each thing they love, do they hate the opposite? These things can give you an even deeper look into your character than you might have thought.
Examples of likes and dislikes to consider:
- Favorite and least favorite food
- Taste in music
- Favorite genre of movie
- Do they follow sports or are they indifferent?
- Do they like to read?
- If money was no object, what car would they be driving?
This section will dive deeper into your character’s psyche. It will require you to dive into their mind and pick out the big, important, life-changing stuff.
These are good examples of things that might not necessarily be included outright in the novel. But they help shape who your character is. Knowing these things about them will help you write them in a realistic and authentic way.
It will create consistency in your character. Readers will never question their decisions, opinions, or emotions when they all make sense based on who they are as a person.
This can include things like:
- Are they an introvert or an extrovert?
- What are they afraid of?
- What is their idea of happiness?
- Where is their favorite place in the world?
- What are their strengths and flaws?
- What do they want most out of life?
- How do they feel about love?
- How do they react to change?
- Do they desire power?
- Are they a leader or a follower?
- What excites them?
- What do they find boring?
Whether healthy, dysfunctional or somewhere in between, a character’s family is instrumental in their development and their personality.
Even if their family aren’t all that important to or involved in the story, it’s still good to identify them in some way.
For each of their mother, father, and siblings you should establish a few things:
- Age (or age they died at if deceased)
- Explain the relationship they have with your main character – close, distant, strained, awkward, estranged, etc
- If they are grown and out of the house, how often do they see their family members?
You can also give a description of their extended family. Again, this branch of their family may or may not be relevant to the main plot of the story. But as I mentioned earlier, their family will have played a big part in their development, upbringing, and how they feel about certain things.
If their extended family is not important to the story, be brief in your explanations. You don’t need to go into excruciating detail, but it’s still valuable information to determine.
Even the simple fact that someone has an abnormally large or small family can be of significance. Large families may have left some feeling left behind or unimportant. Small families can have some people feeling smothered and in the spotlight too often.
You’ll want to go over grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Again, determine ages and their relationship with your main character. Names and additional details can be revealed if the character is going to be important to the story in any way.
Whether close or not, your character’s family relationships will be some of the most significant in their lives. But, these will not be the only relationships they have. Once the family has been covered, you should dive into their external relationships.
The obvious ones here will be their friendships. Which of their friends are they closest to? Describe these relationships.
Do these “best friends” know each and every detail of their life, or are they somewhat guarded even around those closest to them?
Outside of their inner circle, are there are other significant friendships?
In addition to friends and acquaintances, your character will have many other relationships that affect their life in some way:
- Coworkers/fellow students
- Friends of friends
- Family friends
- Members of sports teams/clubs they are in
- Online friends (if applicable)
If your novel or screenplay is set in present time, the internet and specifically social media will be a significant part of the world. Which social media platforms do they have a profile on? How active are they? Or, do they reject social media?
Not being on any social media in the present day will leave a person in a unique spot of digital isolation. Many who choose to do this find it peaceful and they don’t regret their decision.
Where your character lives is another important part of who they are. Regardless of the world your character lives in (earth, another planet, a world you made up yourself) their specific neighborhood and dwelling should be made known as well.
Do they live in a big or small house? Or another type of residence entirely? (Perhaps something you made up for the world you’ve created).
What is the neighborhood like? Are they friendly with their neighbors? Or do they live far away from any other people?
Are they happy where they live or do they have plans/desires to move soon? How long have they lived there?
It’s also important to look at the inside of their dwelling. Do they keep things tidy or is it always a mess? What color are their walls and are they decorated? If so, what type of art do they have on display?
Next, it’s time to look at what they do for work and how they fill their free time.
Determine these key factors about their job:
- What is it?
- How long have they been there?
- Is it what they want to do as a career or is it a temporary situation?
- Have they reached their peak or is there still room for advancement?
- What is their salary? Is it enough for the lifestyle they want?
- Do they like what they do or would they prefer something else?
- Are they good at their job?
- What hours do they work?
- Is their job secure or are they in danger of losing it?
Whether they enjoy what they do or not, they are required to be there for a certain amount of time each day. Unless they want to lose their income, they have no choice.
Once the workday is over though, their time is their own. How do they fill this time? Do they have any hobbies or do they prefer to stay home and relax? Does your character have any hidden talents or anything they really excel at other than their job?
12. The Goal and Motivation
This section is a simple but crucial one.
Your character will have a set of general goals, ambitions, and desires in life. But, this particular story is only going to be about one of them.
So, determine your character’s story goal. What is their main goal in the context of this script?
In addition, you’ll need to figure out their motivation. Why do they want to achieve the goal you’ve set out for them? What drives them to complete it?
Examples of motivation could be love, revenge, or pride (they want to prove themselves).
Character Bio Template
All of the questions I’ve listed in the steps above will get you off to a good start. But, each section can be developed and fleshed out even more. The deeper you dig into your character the better.
You can start by copying and pasting this template and filling in all the information for your character.
Character Development Questions
In addition to the character bio template we’ve provided above, there are always additional character development questions you can ask. When writing a novel, there is simply no such thing as knowing too much about your character.
If you need to dive even deeper, check out these lists and resources for some more questions to ask yourself and/or your character.
The Proust Questionnaire
The Proust questionnaire was developed by Marcel Proust, with the original manuscript being found in 1924, shortly after his death.
These questions are considered to be some of the most revealing. The answers are supposed to tell you almost anything you need to know about someone’s personality.
Some people answer these questions for themselves. Some celebrities have answered them publicly as well. They can also be used to dive deeper into your character.
Answer these 35 questions honestly from the perspective of your character:
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
- Which living person do you most admire?
- What is your greatest extravagance?
- What is your current state of mind?
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
- On what occasions do you lie?
- What do you most dislike about your appearance?
- Which living person do you most despise?
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
- Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
- When and where were you happiest?
- Which talent would you most like to have?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
- If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
- Where would you most like to live?
- What is your most treasured possession?
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
- What is your favorite occupation?
- What is your most marked characteristic?
- What do you most value in your friends?
- Who are your favorite writers?
- Who is your hero of fiction?
- Which historical figure do you most identify with?
- Who are your heroes in real life?
- What are your favorite names?
- What is it that you most dislike?
- What is your greatest regret?
- How would you like to die?
- What is your motto?
When interviewing for a potential job, employers sometimes ask seemingly odd questions that have nothing to do with the job itself. What they want is to get to know who you are as a person and if you’d be a good fit, professionally and otherwise.
You can use this same premise and conduct an “interview” with your character. The intention is to get to know them better and get an idea of how they behave and operate.
You can find a list of 101 common interview questions here. Some of them won’t be of any use to you as they are job-specific, but many will help you get an even deeper look into your character.
Build Strong Characters With a Solid Character Profile
Strong and believable characters don’t come quickly and they don’t come easily. Crafting the best possible character for your novel is going to take a decent investment of both time and effort.
You have to delve into every little nook and cranny of your character’s mind, heart, and past. Not only does every little detail need to be recognized but it all needs to match up and be consistent.
Use these steps, templates, and questions to build the strongest, most detailed and realistic characters you can. Once this is done, you’re well on your way to writing a book that is unstoppable.