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Last updated on Dec 07, 2023

How to Create a Character Profile in 3 Parts

Ask any great novelist and they’ll likely tell you that good writing starts with good characters. But sharp character development is also one of the toughest hills to climb, especially if you’ve struggled to think through those tried-and-true questions that keep you up at night:

  • Are my characters convincing?
  • Do my characters have depth?
  • How do I make sure my character has an arc?

If you’re having these doubts, you might want to turn to the age-old solution: a character profile. 

What is a character profile?

A character profile is a detailed biography of a persona that covers everything from their age and appearance to their relationships with others. By understanding parts of their life that readers might not discover during the course of the story, an author can better understand that character’s life, personality, motivations, and their function within a story.

In this post, we will show you our three-part process for assembling a character profile.

What makes a good character profile?

Many character bibles present exercises that ask you, “If your character was a color, what color would they be?” For many writers, this is either overkill or a bit too 'woo-woo' for their tastes, and they prefer to create a profile that deals in verifiable facts: height, age, and profession.

Our suggestion lies somewhere between those two approaches, where you build a holistic picture of your character in the context of your story. Our character profile worksheet is in three parts. If you treat a person like an apple, they’re going to have three layers of depth: the “skin,” the “flesh,” and the “core.” (Otherwise known as their physical appearance, backstory, and psychology.) That’s how this character template is structured — and if you have a particular area that you’d like to hone, you can skip to it below. Otherwise, this character bible will start with the eagle eye’s view of your character.

We strongly recommend downloading the template in a PDF format and fill it out as you go along. 

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Reedsy’s Character Profile Template

A story is only as strong as its characters. Fill this out to develop yours.

The Three-Part Character Profile:

  1. The Outer Layer, or Physical Appearance
  2. The Flesh, or Backstory
  3. The Core, or Psychology

Part 1. The Outer Layer

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To be able to identify a criminal, detectives build a painstakingly thorough file of said criminal’s physical characteristics.

That’s the goal of this section, which covers the “skin” of your character: everything from their outer appearance to the way that they speak. Think of it as a kind of offender profile — one that can help you spot your character in the middle of a crowded Times Square.

The Basics 📖

  • Name
  • Age
  • Place of birth
  • Current location
  • Nationality
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Income

Physical Appearance 👀

What's their:

  • Eye color?
  • Hairstyle?
  • Build?

Do they have any distinguishing features (tattoos, scars, birthmarks)?

What's their preferred outfit?

Do they wear glasses? 👓

What accessories are ALWAYS associated with them (cane, pipe, necklace, etc.)? 🌂

What's their usual level of grooming?

  • Disheveled
  • Smart, very put together
  • Untidy but clean
  • Other?

Do they have any distinguishing “tics” and mannerisms?

What's their health like? Do they suffer from chronic illnesses? 🏥

Describe their handwriting (sloppy, neat, careful, unintelligible). ✍

How do they walk? 👣

  • Confident, powerful strides
  • Lazy stroll
  • Fast, walks at a clip
  • Distracted, eyes on the ground
  • Other?
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Speech and Communication 💬

How do they talk (rapid, slow, measured, drawl, etc.)?

What's the style of their speech (elevated, educated, peppered with slang, etc.)?

Do they have an accent?

Posture:

  • Stiff, military
  • Slouching
  • Casual and relaxed
  • ‘Turtle,’ tired
  • Other?

Do they gesture?

  • Only when agitated or eager
  • Doesn’t gesture
  • Compulsive “hand-talker”
  • Controlled, only to make a point
  • Other? If so, explain:

How much eye contact do they like to make (direct, shifty, etc.)?

What's their preferred curse word?

What's their catchphrase?

Any speech impediments?

What are any distinguishing speech “tics”?

What's their laugh like? What do they tend to find funny?

Describe their smile?

How emotive are they? Do they wear their emotions on their sleeve? How easily can others read them?

They have a resting _____ face.

  • Bitch 😒
  • Angel 😇
  • Neutral 😐
  • Other?

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Part 2. The Flesh

Characters don’t exist in a vacuum — they’re a product of their environment.

This section in the character template dives a bit deeper into your character and covers their “flesh”: the people, circumstances, and formative influences that filled them out and made them who they are today. It’s the springboard to your character’s biography.

The Past ⏪

What's the name of their hometown? 🏡

What type of childhood did they have (sheltered, neglected, etc.)?

Describe their education. 🍏

Were they involved in organizations and clubs at school?

  • Sports ⚽
  • Debate 🗣
  • Gay / Straight Alliance
  • Model UN
  • Drama 🎭
  • Other? If so, explain:

At graduation, they were named Most Likely To ___________ in the yearbook. 🎓

Jobs (if applicable)? What would their résumé look like? 💼

What was their dream job as a child? Why?

Who were their role models growing up? Describe them. 👨‍👦

What's their greatest regret?

What were their hobbies growing up? ⛳

Favorite place to be as a child?

What's their earliest memory?

What's their saddest memory?

What's their happiest memory?

What's their clearest memory?

What are their skeletons in the closet? 💀

If they could change one thing from their past, what would it be? Why? ⏳

Describe the major turning points or “life beats” in childhood.

What are three adjectives to describe them as a child?

What advice would they give to their younger self?

List their criminal record. ⚖

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Family 👪

Father 👨

  • Age (if living)
  • Occupation
  • Briefly describe their relationship with your character

Mother 👩

  • Age (if living)
  • Occupation
  • Briefly describe their relationship with your character

Siblings👧

  • How many?
  • What are their names and ages?
  • Briefly describe their relationship(s) with your character

Children 👶(if applicable)

  • Age (if living)
  • Occupation
  • Briefly describe their relationship with your character

Extended family 👴

  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunts
  • Cousins
  • Other

What's their family's economic status? 💰

How often do they see their family in a year?


External Relationships 💜 

Who are their closest friends? Describe them.

Who are their other significant friends? 👋

Enemies? Describe them. 😡

How are they perceived by:

  • strangers in the street?
  • acquaintances at a work function?
  • colleagues in the office?
  • authority figures?
  • friends in their friend circles?
  • children?
  • the opposite sex?
  • extended family?

What social media platforms are they on?

  • X (formerly known as Twitter)
  • TikTok
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • BeReal
  • Tumblr
  • Other? If so, explain.

How would they use their social media platforms?

How would they fill out an online dating profile for themselves? ✨

What’s their role in a group dynamic? 💡

  • Leader
  • Joker
  • Parent
  • Hype man
  • Mooch
  • Other? If so, explain.

Who do they depend on for:

  • practical advice?
  • mentoring
  • a wingman?
  • emotional support?
  • moral support?

How quickly do they respond to emails? 📨

What do they want from a relationship?

Who would be their ideal partner? 💖

Who is their significant other? Describe them. 💕

How many people would attend their funeral?


3. The Core

We’ve come now to the “core”: who your character is deep down.

This section in the character profile worksheet covers the “heart” of your character. If a backstory shapes a dynamic character, this will define them. More importantly, it will help inform the two most important points leading up to your novel: the character’s story goal and story motivation.

Psychology 💭 

What do they do on rainy days?

Are they:

  • Street-smart or book-smart
  • An optimist or pessimist
  • Introverted or Extroverted

What is their favorite sound? 🔊

Favorite place in the world? 🌎

What secrets do they keep? What are they most afraid of people finding out? 🔒

What do they want the most? 🔍

What's their biggest flaw?

What's their biggest strength?

What's their biggest fear?

What is their biggest accomplishment? 📈

What is their idea of perfect happiness?

What's their favorite quote? 👌

Do they want to be remembered? What for? ⌚

How do they approach:

  • power?
  • ambition?
  • love?
  • change?

What is the one object or possession that they would rescue from their burning home? 🔥

What (or who) bores them? 💤

What makes them angry? 💢

What do they look for in a person?

How strong is their moral compass? When, specifically, are they willing to compromise their morals?

List the last 10 books they read. 📚

Which fictional world would they most wish to visit?

If they didn’t have to sleep, what would they do with the extra time?

What are their pet peeves? ⚠

If they won the lottery, what would they do?

Describe the character’s bucket list at the ages of 15, 20, 30, and 40.

List the 10 songs that would occupy their All-Time Most Played playlist on Spotify. 🎵

What is the best compliment that someone ever paid them?

In an elevator, do they push the elevator button more than once? 🚪

What would they want their tombstone to say?


The Present and Future 🔮 

What is their story goal? (answer in a single paragraph)

Story motivation (answer in a single paragraph)

In other words: what does your character want in the story? Why do they want it? Every other answer in the character template builds up to this. This is critical information to know because it’ll make up the unshakable foundation — and raison d'être — for your story. Whenever you feel like your story is straying off course, go straight back to your character’s story goal and motivation.


And if you lose physical sight of this character template, don’t sweat because we made it a portable resource for you. Head on to the next part of this guide to learn more about our downloadable character profile template.

 

24 responses

Rachel Mendell says:

02/06/2018 – 12:23

excellent! so much info - thank you.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

07/06/2018 – 04:37

Our pleasure, Rachel. Glad that it helped!

Diane says:

07/06/2018 – 08:50

Wow! I tried to find such kind of list many times. Thank you so much! Creating character is always difficult for me. I imagine tutoriage character but it was not full. With this list Finally I will finish it.

Jon says:

22/01/2019 – 15:37

Nice I was gonna make one myself but this is great since normally I obsess to the point of procrastination.

Gwendolyn Clark says:

13/05/2019 – 00:09

I was never sent a copy to download

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

13/05/2019 – 08:20

Hi Gwendolyn, could you drop us an email at service@reedy.com and we'll sort you out with a link :)

Sabrina Douglas says:

08/06/2019 – 16:40

I have not received the PDF yet.

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

10/06/2019 – 13:48

With Gmail, our emails often can be found in the Promotions folder. if it's not there, send us an email at service@reedsy.com and we'll sort you out :)

Tactical Weasel says:

08/06/2019 – 23:18

I was never sent a copy to download either.

Ibidun says:

02/07/2019 – 01:47

This is a developed list of questions for sure. Thank you!

susannelorraineharford says:

21/08/2019 – 08:01

Thanks! Great help in this articke. X peace, susanne

james bolin says:

22/08/2019 – 21:05

This my be a crazy question, but I am writing a science fiction book, and I already made character profiles for my ow use. But, that being said, would it make sense to also include a section in the book that includes all the main characters profiles. It would serve as a reference in case someone wants to know the characters hair color, birth date, and other details. any advice would help thanks

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

23/08/2019 – 09:04

It would be a somewhat unusual move — but it's not for me to say if it's wrong. Often, you see books provide family trees and brief histories of the 'world' of the story... but that tends to be so that readers can check up on facts that are highly relevant to relationships and plot of the book. In almost all cases, readers won't really need to know things like hair color or date of birth. So, I'd think hard before putting a character stat sheet in your book.

↪️ Nyla replied:

02/09/2019 – 16:12

I don't see why not! Some books did it (sort of); Wings of Fire, Tailchaser's Song, Warriors... I don't think including one would be a bad move. Definitely not something that would kill your story. Keep in mind that I'm a beginner when it comes to books, so I may not know any better. I'm just saying that in my opinion, I don't think it's a bad move.

Satyajay Mandal says:

25/08/2019 – 04:31

You can tweet me to get more updates on the story I'm directing

Nyla says:

02/09/2019 – 16:13

What do you mean by "education"? Like what school they went to?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

17/09/2019 – 09:02

Yup. Are they a college grad? What did they study? Did they leave school at 18 and take up an apprenticeship — that sort of thing.

Sky says:

27/09/2019 – 14:03

Will i ever get the document to download!

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

07/10/2019 – 15:48

Hi Sky, if you're still having trouble downloading the template, could you drop us a message at marketing@reedsy.com? Thanks! Martin

Satyajay Mandal says:

20/10/2019 – 03:56

I will update you about all the details

Max Sangers says:

23/03/2020 – 20:16

I like it, just pls refrain from bad language :)

Satyajay Mandal says:

26/03/2020 – 04:49

No need to refrain from using bad language, if it is assigned to the villains instead of the heroes/heroines

Satyajay Mandal says:

26/03/2020 – 05:02

No need to refrain from using bad language if it is assigned to the villains instead of the heroes/heroines

Jade says:

28/03/2020 – 05:01

This is @*#$ing AWESOME!!!

Comments are currently closed.

The Ultimate Character Profile Template

Unique characters drive compelling stories. Develop yours with our free template.

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