Character development is an essential component of fiction writing.
You need to get to know your fictional characters well before you start writing your story.
No matter what genre you are writing, you should create profiles for your main or major characters before you begin.
The best way of organizing your thoughts is by creating a quick character profile template.
What is a character profile?
If you are planning to write a book or even a short story, you need interesting people to write about.
You might have a few ideas in your head already, but they are not fully developed.
But a short bio of a couple of sentences is not going to be enough.
There will be many times in your story that you will need to refer to precise details about your characters.
Very often, it is a lack of attention to minor details that can cause problems in a plot or with a character’s story.
When I started writing, I had no idea about creating a character description template.
It led to me making so many mistakes in my first drafts. I was writing by the seat of my pants, and it didn’t end well at all.
Writing a book needs careful planning and outlining. Without it, you can end up with a convoluted story with very flat characters.
If you detail as much as you can before you begin, you will have a quick and reliable reference you can use as you write your book.
It might take you a little while to complete your character details, but it will save you time in the long run.
How to plan a character profile template
There is a lot of choice in book writing software. Many of the premium versions come with character profile cards.
But you don’t need to buy expensive software to create as many profiles as you need for character creation.
It’s very easy to detail all the information about a character’s life by creating a simple template in Word or Pages.
Here is an example of creating a free character profile template complete with some details.
A good character profile will have as much information as possible to form a complete overview.
Here are some of the essential character traits and details you will need to include.
- Short bio
- Personal data
- Physical description
- Personality traits
- Positive and negative attributes
- Mannerisms and habits
- An image
You can always add more elements if you wish.
You might not use all of the information in your story. Simple things like knowing a birthday and astrological sign might not seem necessary.
But as your story develops, small details like this can sometimes crop up.
If you are well prepared, you are not going to confuse a reader by using two different dates in your story.
If you write historical fiction, dates are a big issue. It is so easy to get things wrong or out of order.
If your character lived in the 17th century, a birth date of August 1725 would be wrong. It should be 1625.
When you write, interesting characters should always be showing the story to the reader. The more details you know about them, the more depth you can give to your story.
How to create your template
If you do a Google search, you can find many free templates to download.
But most of them want your email address before you can download the template.
If you are like me, you want to avoid getting even more marketing emails. But it’s up to you.
It’s really so simple to do it yourself by making a simple Word or Pages template.
All you need to do is set up your new document in portrait or landscape, and save it as a template.
You can add as many text boxes as you think you will need. I also add an image holder. I’ll cover more on that later.
Here is what my basic template looks like.
If you click the image above you can download my character profile template in pdf.
And no, you don’t need to hand over your email address to get it.
You are welcome to print it out if you are happy to write character details by hand. Or, if you know how to do it, you can edit and annotate the pdf file.
But, if you prefer, you can create your own template like this in less than five minutes.
Why you should add an image
There is nothing better than a visual image of your main characters. If you have a picture in your character profile template, it will help you a lot when you write.
It doesn’t need to be anything spectacular. But a picture that is representative of what you have in mind is a great idea.
Where can you find an image?
You are not going to use or share your image online. You are only going to use it for your template. So you can use almost any image you can find.
The best places to start looking are royalty-free stock image sites. There are thousands upon thousands of photos you can choose from.
You can find a lot of images of people as well as fantasy images and even aliens. Here is one I found on Pixabay.
It’s okay to show you this image because the Pixabay License says it is free for commercial use, and no attribution is required.
You can also search the Internet and even social media platforms for an image that looks like what you have in your imagination.
But if you intend to share your profile image or images, always make sure you check the license information first.
It is especially important if you plan to use an image for your book cover.
I have tried many different ways of creating a character profile.
For some time, I kept bullet point notes, spreadsheets, and then tried writing long descriptions.
But with a bit of experience, I found that breaking up the information into boxes helped make the details and information much clearer and easier to remember and reference.
When you write, you can add more details to each text box as they come up in your story so you keep building a character.
Then you won’t fall into a fact trap later in your book.
There is no better or the best way to layout your character profile templates.
But not having profiles at all when you start writing your book is one of the most common mistakes for an inexperienced writer.
When a problem comes up in the plot, it means wading back through the whole manuscript, trying to find mentions of perhaps hair or eye color or important dates.
It’s always a great idea to get to know your characters as best as you can before you write.
Your story will flow better and more naturally, as well as being factually accurate.