What is a Character Profile?

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So, usually one of the first things an instructor will present in a character development class is the character profile sheet, but I tend to delay this because of my own belief system, which is probably something I shouldn’t admit, but it basically comes down to this:

I care more about my characters’ insides than their outsides. Yes, the demographics of who they are and how they grew up and their physicality absolutely impacts who they are, but I want their yearnings, wants, big lie, human worth and flaw to be the things that matter the most to me as the writer and the reader.

But character profiles are beautifully concrete tools and approaches that can truly help you nail down your character (not literally, no hammers involved).

A character profile is basically a tool that:

  1. Helps you not get confused with the details as you write.
  2. Helps you round out your character’s psychographics and demographics.
  3. Organizes your thoughts.

Writerswrite.com says,

“A Character Profile is just meant to be a guide where you can list facts and details to help you get to know your characters, especially if you get stuck on one character who doesn’t quite seem real. You also want to be sure you don’t create a Mary Sue character. Maybe he needs a new characteristic — a hidden trauma, a fabulous skill or a deadly secret — something that will make the character come alive for you. If you are having trouble coming up with character details try to see how your character performs using a writing prompt or walk them through a situation known well to you.”

When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I loved character profiles, filling in all the blanks on the sheet, but what I didn’t know then is that while the profile is a fantastic organizational tool that helps you think about your character, it isn’t what makes your characters believable or lovable or be the kind of characters that readers want to invest time in.

Bringing life to the character doesn’t happen in the outline or the profile, it happens on the page as that character deals with conflict, goes after their yearnings, takes action, interacts and moves across the story, guided by their own yearnings that we readers can relate to.

Those yearnings are a much bigger deal than demographics because it’s those yearnings that make us (and our characters) human.





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Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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