Have you ever been reading a novel and found yourself pulled up short when the main character, who had green eyes in the first chapter, suddenly has “eyes the color of a midsummer sky”? Or perhaps the spelling of their middle name changes by one letter halfway through the book? Errors like these are quite easily avoided if you create and regularly update a character profile sheet for each of your characters, even the minor ones.
Every time I sit down to create a piece of fiction longer than a short story, I start by creating a profile for each character using my Character Profile Template (Character Profile Template PDF). I created this template after viewing several such character trait lists, adding some of my own along the way. Feel free to use this template for your own characters, modifying it in any way you like. I only ask that, if you share it with others, you provide them the link to this blog where you found it.
You might not use all the fields on this template, and you probably won’t use all the information recorded on them in the story. The reader doesn’t need to know, and probably wouldn’t care, that the minor character Mr. Simpleton, the crotchety old neighbor who’s always yelling at everybody’s kids to stay off his lawn, was a decorated WWI flying ace who won a Medal of Honor. But you should know this. These details color the way you perceive, and portray, each character, no matter how minor. Perhaps the reader will pick up a hint of the loneliness and isolation Mr. Simpleton feels – the lack of respect and loss of honor. They won’t know exactly why he feels this way, but he’ll be a much richer character because of it.
Another good reason to create these character sheets is that you can pass them off to your editor with your manuscript. This makes the editor’s job a bit easier in that she doesn’t have to take the time to create these profiles as she edits your story. She can refer to your sheets to be sure that your characters’ details are consistent all the way through the manuscript. If you create any other background documentation, particularly if you’ve created a world from scratch, this information is also useful to your editor. You don’t have to send her everything, of course, and please try to make this auxiliary packet of info as clean and organized as possible. Your editor will thank you for all the time and effort you’ve saved her…and the project will be a bit less expensive to boot!