Thursday, February 6, 2014




You need to know your character inside out. You need to know what he thinks, dreams, fears and loves. You need to know if he has red hair or brown hair. You need to know what he eats for breakfast.
One way is to fill out a character profile or checklist. There are lots of forms available on the internet or in books. Some writers like to fill them out before they begin writing. I’ve tried it but, to be honest, get bogged down and bored pretty quickly. But I do find a profile very useful to fill out as I go along and even more so after I have finished the first draft.

I’ve borrowed from several different profiles and created my own, in the form of questions. It’s what I use when I create a character who is a child (an adult profile looks a little different.) I’ve written it with “he” but of course this can be used with girls too.

What is his name?

Where was he born? How old is he? When is his birthday?

What does he look like (height, weight, hair and eye colour etc.)?

What is his ethnic background?

Who is in his immediate family (the family he lives with)? Who is in his extended family?

What is his relationship with members of his family?

What other significant adults are in his life?

Who are his friends? What does he like to do with his friends? What do he and his friends fight about?

Where does he live? Does he like where he lives? Who are his neighbours? Does he know his neighbours?

What grade is he in at school? Does he like school? What are his favourite subjects? What subjects does he disike? What kind of marks does he get? Who is his favourite teacher? Why?

Is he ever in trouble at school? What for?

Does he like to read? If so, what kind of books?

Does he like music? If so, what kind of music?

Does he like sports? Which sports? Does he belong to any teams?

Does he take lessons outside of school?

What are his favourite TV shows? Movies?

Does he have any pets?

What are his chores? Does he get an allowance?

Has he ever travelled to another country? Where?

Is he outgoing or shy? Friendly or aloof? Bold or fearful? A risk taker or cautious? Social or a loner? Selfish or thoughtful? Kind or mean? A leader or a follower?

What does he dream about?

What embarrasses him?

What frightens him?

What impresses him?


The last question is key to developing motivation in your character. You’ll probably think of lots more questions to add.

Gillian Roberts says in You Can Write A Mystery that “a character can do anything you like if he has a reason and the reason comes out of his history.”

A character profile is one way to develop that history.

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