My absolute FAVORITE part of the outlining process is crafting character profiles. I love digging deep and crafting characters that are relatable and well-rounded. Since characters are essential to any novel, and oftentimes one of the reasons the reader will continue to read, I decided to show you my personal five-step process for creating character profiles.
Note: I have a previous blog post on characters that you can find here. If you're struggling to get to know your characters beyond a surface level you may find it helpful!
-Step One: Inspiration
I find inspiration from different places. Sometimes, I might do a Google Image search using keywords like "young adult female" or "tough male with red hair." These are general descriptions that I search to get an idea for a particular character that I'm having trouble distinguishing in my mind. I also pay attention when I'm out and about. If a particular person has a certain sense of style that I love, or an interesting vibe, I'll take note of their physical features and/or style of dress.
-Step Two: Hash Out The Physical Description:
After gaining some inspiration, I'll take a minute to cement the character's physical description in my mind. First, I'll start with hair, skin tone, and eye color. To make sure my characters are varied and unique, I utilize Pinterest to get an idea of different tones and colors as well as facial shapes, hairstyles, and hair textures. I then move onto height, weight, and build. This comes in handy later while writing. For instance, if my character is petite then they may find themselves looking up at people or having to stand in chairs to reach high cabinets. If they aren't as fit then they may find themselves falling behind when walking or running alongside others. I also take note of any distinct features I want a character to have such as freckles, scars, strong jawlines, a big nose, or birthmarks. I also take the time to think about each character's style. Do they prefer loose or tight clothes? Do they like color or play it safe? Would someone else call their clothing choices modest or revealing? Do they have a quirky habit such as always wearing socks or slippers indoors? Are they always perfectly dressed and have a full face of makeup at all times? Once again, I utilize Pinterest to get an idea of one to three outfits that each character would wear. Last, but not least, I think about my character's age. What's their birthday? How old are their parents? Will this character die in the novel and if so, at what age?
-Step Three: Personality
Now onto the good stuff. By crafting your character's personality, you're adding another level of realism to them that makes them relatable to your readers. I start with what my character likes or dislikes in all aspects of their life. Do they hate certain foods, clothes or colors? Does my character have a quirk, a secret, a flaw, or a pet peeve? Quirks could be talking with their hands or a nervous habit like biting their fingernails. Flaws are extremely important because we're all flawed in some way. Is your character insecure, absent-minded, or addicted to something? Are they reckless, spoiled, or lazy? I've found an excellent resource here that outlines 123 character flaws. Try picking one or two for your character as well as throwing in some secrets and pet peeves that you can tie into the story later. To help you with this process you can do personality tests for your characters such as this one here. Last, but not least, I try to pick one to three good character traits to offset the flaws or negative traits I've picked. You can find a list of 350 positive and negative character traits here to help you out.
-Step Four: What Makes Them Who They Are?
Think about your character's background. Where is your character from? Does he or she have siblings? Was your character raised by a single parent? Did a family member recently die? Was your character adopted? Where does your character currently live now? Is it a small town or a city? What country? What's your character's occupation? What's your character's ethnicity and how does that affect their life? Is your character religious? How does your character speak? What language does your character speak? Does your character speak multiple languages? What is your character's goal or motivation? Have they, or will they, accomplish anything? What will they accomplish, struggle with, or fail at throughout the book? How will your character change throughout the book?
-Step Five: Wrapping Things Up
Last, but not least, I like to decide on a name for my character. When doing this, it's important to pay attention to genre and time period. It's also a good tip to make sure that you don't have characters with similar names or names that all start with the same letter. Also, using the information above, I like to use Pinterest or Google Images to find someone to look like the character I envision in my head. If my character's features are really unique, I use an avatar creator like this one.
And that's it! I know it seems like a lot of work now, but by doing this before I write, I spend less time trying to think of these things when writing and am able to save time during the editing process. It also helps to have a handy reference to refer to! Do you do anything similar with your writing projects? Is your process completely different? Let me know down below!