Character Profiling

characterI have been playing with character profiles as I think about a new project. The process helps me to think about the story development as well as the characters. This is something I haven’t really done before, I tend to start with an idea and watch the characters grow with the story.

Recently I was looking over my draft of the fantasy trilogy (Raven Crown) and I thought I needed to develop some serious character profiles for that one too. And in preparation for Iski I have started a similar process, but a much briefer character outline.

Something else I’m trying for Iski is to ‘cast’ the characters. So for each I have a picture of my ideal image for that character. I have found this helps to visualise the type of character they are as well as maintaining consistency when describing them. This was suggested by authors Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt when they described how they work and I’m using a range of actors and stock images to cast the story.

My draft for Raven Crown is all over the place. And I’m OK with that as it is the very first draft (what just falls out of my head onto the page) but the time will come soon enough when I need to fill in the blank bits and ensure my characters’ stories are complete. And with a clear understanding of each of those characters (for each book and the series) that will be a much easier process.

The only problem in doing this for Raven Crown is the number of characters. I have started comprehensive profiles for the main characters and then a simpler version for the secondary characters but at the moment there seems to be so many. Reading George RR Martin I always feel like he knows every character intimately, whether a main character or someone we only get a glimpse of. I’m not sure that I want to provide that level of detail, but I want my readers to know and love (or hate) my characters as much as I do and therefore the better I know them, the better I am able to write them.

This does increase my workload and I have loaded myself up fairly well. But the benefits of this work far outweigh the time taken. I have found the image/picture idea really useful and I would like to try that for my other projects as well. For my current work (in final edit stage) I have a photo for my main character but not the others. It could be a great use of my time when I’m feeling the pressure and I need a little escape, an hour or so scanning the internet for random red heads until I find the perfect image is surprisingly relaxing and then frees up my mind for writing when I need it.


How much detail do you develop for each character and is that before, during or after the drafting process?

2 Replies to “Character Profiling”

  1. Raven Crown — love the title.

    As far as George Martin and the intimate knowledge of his characters goes, I reckon there must be a trick to faking it. Keeping that many characters’ full back stories in your head would be maddening. There has to be a means to quickly sketch a charater such that he/she appears rounded and complex. I know if wouldn’t work for main characters, but surely it would for minor/supporting characters.

    I usually have an idea of how a character looks in my head as I write, but rarely do I describe them on the page, unless it is crucial to the story. This is especially true of my protagonists. I have this funny notion that the more a reader creates the protagonist themselves, the more empathy they’ll have for them. No basis for this belief.

    Having said that, in my current work, I have taken the more definitely descriptive route of all my characters, protagonist included.

    1. Thnaks M. Not sure how to name each book of the Raven Crown Series but I’m sure it will come to me as I continue to draft.
      I have an image in my head as I write of each character and for some of them it has taken me a long time to find an image that represents that. Yet it is helpful to have an image I can physically return to.
      I’m sure your own reading experience helps shape your ideas about character description. It may be that this process is more for me than the reader as I would like to know them the best I can so that I can write them as well as I can.
      I always have a very clear image of your characters and I haven’t felt inundated with description and detail.

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