Monday, August 01, 2011

Are You a Profiler?

 “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” - Ernest Hemingway

As writers, we desperately try to breathe life into our characters. (Sorry, Ernie!) We want them to evoke emotions from our readers, to touch them in a way they never expected. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Creating a relatable cast takes time. When we rush it, the undertaking becomes a CPR situation—where we’re pounding on their chests, trying to force our own vitality into their airways. 


Readers tend to pick up on that. 


To truly bring these characters people to life, we need to take the time to get to know them. Inside and out. For continuity's sake, we'll also need a record.


That's where character profiles come in. (They're like interviews or little "getting to know you" games.) Here are a few of the most extensive templates I’ve come across:
Seriously, I love these things. I fill out as many as I can and compile them into character folders.

If you’re really crazy into it, you might consider filling them out in character—using a different “handwritingfont for each character.  I did that for three of my main characters. (Yes, it was tedious, but it helped me keep the details separate.) Try it on your next writing break.

Here’s a quick example of one of the lighter questions:




So, do you guys use profile templates? Do you write your own? What kinds of things do you include?

Have a great week!

P.S. Shoutout to Roni Loren! I won a few paranormal romance books from her "Epic, Two-Year Blogiversary MEGA BOOK GIVEAWAY"! *Happy dance*

31 comments:

Lisa L. Regan said...

This is a great post. I am so not this organized. I'm totally fly by the seat of my pants. I'm usually halfway through the book before I get to writing down all the nitty gritty about characters. I know I should be doing that first though!

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Lisa! You know, I think it's a balancing act. I may need to stop developing so much in the beginning. The characters take on lives of their own and then I'm stuck chasing after them! Maybe I'll stick to the basics in the beginning and add the details as they come. :)

Bryce Daniels said...

I like that you touched on this today! I'm a lot like Lisa. I let my characters develop through the story. I know this is wrong, but you know what they say about old dogs.

I REALLY like the handwriting approach through font changes. A lot. I think I'll play with that a bit for each of my peeps.

Jeff King said...

I like your advice… even though I never thought about it that deeply. My characters live in my head, they speak and act on their own, so it is fairly easy to make them real—I just wish the other aspects of writing came so naturally to me.

JeffO said...

Not a profiler, although there's some serious profiling that goes on upstairs. Also, I'll sometimes write scenes that I soon realize aren't going to be in the book but find helpful, anyway, as they contribute to what I know about a particular character.

Laila Knight said...

This is pretty cool. I know how my characters are, (the voices in my head) but there comes a point when as writers we get so excited about finishing a story that we forget to slow down and really write in detal what's best about a scene. Great post! :)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

That's a fantastic idea with the different fonts! Now I'll have to try that. :)

Carrie Butler said...

@Bryce - Thank you! I'm all for whatever works. Oh, I'm glad. You'll have to let me know how it goes for you. :)

@JeffK - Thanks, Jeff! Hey, to each his own. :) Me too.

@JeffO - More power to ya! I can't keep track of anything without a little written assistance. Sad, but true. ;) Thanks for commenting!

@Laila - Oh, I know exactly what you mean. There's an adrenaline rush that comes with writing. Sometimes we want to charge straight through the middle of it. ;) Thanks, Laila!

@Bethany - Thank you, Bethany! I hope it works out for you. :)

Lisa L. Regan said...

There's something for you on my blog today!

Leah said...

I've tried a few of those myself, but like the ones you found much more. I'm totally going to be stealing your different font idea and giving it a go, because that's brilliant. Definitely got a sense of who the characters could be.

Lynda R Young said...

Thanks for the links to the great charts. They are fantastic things to fill in. I really should do that more often because they do help to keep everything straight.

Carrie Butler said...

@Lisa - Thank you! :)

@Leah - Excellent. Thank you! Let me know how the font idea works out for you. :)

@Lynda - You're very welcome. I know they certainly help me. :) Thank you for stopping by!

Melodie said...

Wow - very helpful post! And I love your blog design...found you thru Lisa Regan's blog and am now a new follower. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Welcome, Melodie!

Oh, thank you! I really appreciate the kind words. I shall be heading over to your blog shortly. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

I love the idea of different handwriting fonts for each character! I think I might have to try that.

Carrie Butler said...

Welcome, Peggy! You'll have to let me know how it works out for you. Thank you for following! :)

Laila Knight said...

Hi Carrie, you have to stop by tomorrow. I gave you a Liebster thingy award. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Aww, you know I'd be there anyway. :D Thanks, Laila!

Lydia K said...

I have use profile templates and it's helped me round out my characters (oops!) before I start writing. Nice to meet you and your blog, I found you from Laila's blog. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love the idea of tying handwriting to my characters! That would be fun to use in the character bible Jeff Savage talks about.

Carrie Butler said...

@Lydia - Welcome, fellow profiler! It's great to meet you, and thank you for stopping by. I'm so happy that you found me through Laila's blog! :)

@Donna - Thank you! I've never heard of the character bible, but I'll definitely look into it. Welcome and thank you for stopping by. I really appreciate it. :)

Christina Farley said...

Very interesting! You are so right. The more time you spend with your characters and the more you know them, the realer (is that even a word?) they are!

Carrie Butler said...

@Christina - Thank you! Hm, if it's not, we should definitely make it one. It's pretty fun to say! ;)

Botanist said...

This is a different take on getting to know your characters. I've used interviews before, but more like a TV talk show approach, as if interviewing about some aspect of the world or story they inhabit. That tends to reveal more focused insight into how the character (sorry...person) ought to behave in the story.

Carrie Butler said...

@Botanist - That's a great idea! It seems like it would flow much more naturally. Thanks for following! :)

linda said...

I looked at the character worksheets you linked to and was all @.@ because they're all soooo incredibly long and detailed! I don't think I'd have the patience to answer all those questions for my characters (especially wading through the ones that don't apply or are irrelevant). I think I tend to just freewrite about my characters and talk about what they want, what they're like, things they struggle with, etc. Sometimes in their voice, sometimes not. It seems more organic to me that way, though I think those giant lists of questions are helpful for making sure you don't leave out anything important. Thanks for sharing about your process! :)

Carrie Butler said...

@Linda - Yeah, it's hard to stay focused long enough to answer them all. (I don't blame you for being all @.@! lol) Usually, I just dart around and answer questions when I get stuck on writing/revisions. Then again, I ~need~ those records to keep everything straight later on.

You have to do whatever works for you. That's the great thing about writing. There's rarely a right or wrong way to do things. :D Thanks for stopping by!

Patrick said...

This is what I have the problem with the most. It's hard to become so many people at once, especially in a scene that involves so many personalities to clash.

Great post! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Patrick! :) I agree. It's sometimes difficult to keep up with multiple characters. That's why I love making profile "cheat sheets".

Jenny S. Morris said...

Thanks Carrie, this is awesome. I'm doing the first one right now for my tricky character!!

Carrie Butler said...

You're welcome, Jenny! I really hope it helps! :)