Writer Tips: On Character profiles

marc henry johnson character profiles

Hey everybody today we’re talking about characters again and a lot of you have told me that you really struggle with creating characters.
The big struggle is that many of your characters are too unrealistic or they’re one-dimensional. Not good.

Now there are a lot of elements that go into creating really strong characters but I think one of the most important steps is to try to get to know the character is to assign real person values to them. This way you can get to know the character inside and out- and this way it’s going to be a lot easier to write for them.

Step one in this process is to create a fancy dancy character profiles that is essentially a list of your characters traits and these lists get very specific.
Now some of you might be thinking well that’s nice but I don’t know what sort of character traits I’m supposed to list. Fair enough, so I’m going to give you a ton of things you ought to consider when creating a character profile and I’m going to divide these things into five simple categories:
a few things to keep in mind one just because you’re listing these things doesn’t mean they need to go into your story
The goal here is to know your character.

  1. Gender
  2. Age.
  3. Race? Culture?
    These are important to consider because it can help guide the characters physical description and two, because some people place a lot of their identity in their the city and culture and even fictional worlds have countries or realms or clans.
  4. physical – your character’s appearance affects them immenseley. Now appearance doesn’t have to dictate their personality just because a character small doesn’t mean they’re sweet or weak – making personality go counter to physical type can be an effective method of conceiving memorable characters.
  5. Where do they live?
    Here I’m talking specifics about country, state, or town of residence
    This type of info can also dictate the type of lifestyles such as, are they rich are they poor? or are they struggling?

Next we move on to category two relationships- first and foremost what’s their family like- maybe their dad’s an abusive piece of work or maybe their mom has a drinking problem.

Family is often the source of a person’s biggest conflicts and character flaws so digging through a character’s family tree is a great way to reveal their insecurities and issues

Next we move on to friends. A person’s friendships can say a lot about them -if you’re hanging out with a bunch of sketchy people you’re probably sketch yourself. As the story progresses your character’s friendships might change or maybe their friends abandon them in their time of need; or maybe the character just outgrows them.

Sexual history/romantic history. What specifically is your character attracted to?
What’s gonna get your character all riled up? Most people are attracted to far more traits than that eyes, hair, smile, and the scent of Cologne. There is also the way a person dresses or carries themselves, and most importantly, personality.

Lots of people are attracted to confidence or quirkiness- or having things in common. These are all things you need to tap into. Is your character’s brain usually in a gutter? Or shy around romantic interests?

Personal mastery. What is your character’s occupation and what is your character good at and how did they develop these skills?
Perhaps there is a huge disconnect between what your character does to make a living and what they really want to do with their life. This type of conflict powers many enduring fairy tales and almost every underdog storyline, but it remains an effective conflict device to define your character.

Along the lines of personal talents, If your character is a coward in one scene and then in the next they are single-handedly fighting off werewolves, you’re gonna have to be able to rationalize this- which means there’s going to be some backstory involved and this usually requires more exposition- which risks boring your audience if revealed to carelessly.

Next, there is the subject of hobbies and pastimes. What the heck does your character do when they’re not killing aliens or investigating crimes, or fighting injustice or even casting wizard spells?

Finally, and very important- what are they afraid of? if a character is ambitious what feelings or failures led them to this state? Do they think that everyone cares about them or that not enough people care? What is their level of self awareness of their own flaws- maybe they have zip or maybe they have too many fears?

We clearly are probing for areas of disconnectedness between reality and their self-perception. Between their real weakness and their real strengths and whether these two areas affect each other. If your character is a good guy you want to know what makes them heroic and what makes them flawed!!!

If they’re a bad guy you want to know what makes them formidable and what makes them falter, And what are your characters goals and dreams?

Now we’re getting into the interesting parts of character.
The name of the game is always conflict and knowing your characters basics and also the root of your character’s vulnerability is vital if you want to make a memorable character that anchors a memorable story.

Tap into the heart and soul of your character and you’ll learn a lot about a person when you determine what they are lacking in their life and what is standing in their way of finding what they need.

There are a ton more things you can look into I encourage you to look online for examples of character profiles you can find them everywhere Remember the key is to get to know your character so well they feel like a real complex person once that character feels three-dimensional to you it’ll be so much easier to write for them

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