Tuesday, 10 June 2014

How Is Your Character Profile?

When I began writing Bloodgifted, the first book in my Dantonville Legacy Trilogy, I knew that to make my characters believable, each had to have their own unique set of characteristics—their little personality quirks, ways of speaking and even history. Creating full-bodied entities requires research, and for that I used my background as an English teacher. In class I often set my students the task of creating profiles of the protagonists in the novels they were studying. It's a great exercise, not only in familiarising yourself with a character but, in giving them life.

Here's my character profile for my male protagonist, Alec Munro:

Name: Alec Munro
Profession: Medical doctor and researcher
Appearance: Straight black hair; lavender eyes (brown before his transformation); full mouth; serpent & sword tattoo on the left side of his breast. Height 6'1"
Family: Belongs to Luc's clan.
Sired by: Lucien Lebrettan (Lucius Antonius Pulcher).
History: Doctor and widower (wife and baby died in child-birth) who enlisted in World War I; stationed in a military hospital on the Western Front. Accidentally shot by Owen Dantonville and transformed by Luc in 1918; founder of the Munro Research Labs in Sydney, which specialise in treating rare blood disorders; appointed Princeps (leader) of the Brethren in 1960.
Character: Decisive and determined, he acts on observation and experimentation then uses whatever means necessary to achieve his ends; has a strong sense of justice; compassionate and protective toward humans; loyal to his sire, Luc, who he regards as a friend.
Personality: Dry sense of humour; enjoys teasing Laura.
Habits: Runs his hand through his hair when he's working out something; calls Laura "honey" when he's concerned over anything.
Best Friend: Jake
Favourite Expression: Damn! Holy mother of….
Car: Drives a blue Mercedes Sports.

I've done this profile with all my characters, occasionally adding extra details as they appear. I then print them and stick them to my noticeboard so they're at eye-level when I start writing. Now they're no longer in my head, but right there, looking down at me, willing me to bring them to life. And I do.
Try it and see how it improves your character development.
Happy writing!


Lorraine Carey said...

Great job, Tima! This proves you’ve got to be organized and this is part of the writing process. As a teacher I taught character development in the classroom for years- yet it remains to be one of my weaknesses. Thanks for bringing this to light again, Tima!

Lyle S Tanner said...

Interesting! Your method certainly looks like it would work better than those long questionnaires that some people use as their character sheets.

Tima Maria said...

Thanks Lorraine, I'm happy to do so. I know it works for me.

Tima Maria said...

Thanks Lyle. Personally, I get bored reading those long lists of questions and answers. A character profile works so much better for me. It's almost like a Wanted Poster—you see the essentials at a glance.

Diane said...

An interesting idea. I can see that it would probably be a great help, especially if there are a lot of characters in a book.