Vices, Tics, and Skeletons | Creating a character profile for my protagonist

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’m revamping my writing process by creating an outline for my entire novel, and doing focused research to create the lives and backdrop of the story. But there is one more tool I’m exploiting, which I haven’t mentioned yet — creating a character profile.

What is a character profile?

A character profile is a working tool — meaning it changes as your story develops — to help define a character and how they act. (We’re talking about everything from hair and eye color to the kind of building they live in and what their religion and education are.) 

I’ve used profiles in one form or the other in the past, but I’ve always been super informal: a notebook page of notes on physical features (because that is the first thing I forget) and key emotional hang-ups. Effective, but not quite enough to create a deep character.

Creating a character profile — how?!

This time, I decided I needed some help creating a character profile and I used a questionnaire to outline my protagonist.

There are scads of questionnaires online, some are exceptionally thorough while others are more simple. I decided to use something specific but not exhaustive. The questionnaire I used was from a writing course I took with author Barbra Kyle, based on her book, Pageturner. It was just under 30 questions, and what I liked most was the focus on conflict; things like my character’s deepest desire, and what they would do if that desire was threatened.

Another reason I want to use a character profile is to avoid repetition. I hate it when I find traits that bleed from one character to another.

Who is Bec Schumacher?

Keep in mind, this is a working tool. So the below is not polished, and parts of it will probably change as I continue refining the story.

Basics

Bec is the protagonist. She’s a late-twenty-something (but lies about her age to be older) white chick, gold topaz eyes, long tawny hair. About 5’5, 110-120lbs, very athletic (is a runner). Likes jeans and walking barefoot. Enjoys 2000’s pop hits.

Where did/does she live

She grew up in the boonies of Teton County, Wyoming. Now she’s living in a townhome in Jackson with her ex-military husband. She grew up in the area, is well-known though not really respected.

What does she do/believe

She is (or is working toward?) a Large Carnivore Biologist with the Game and Fish Department. Has a Master’s in Wildlife Biology. Politically she’s a democrat, but not ardent. Has protestant Christian faith.

What is her secret life/bad habits/tics

She’s a Fade (essentially a werewolf). She left her abusive family/pack at 16 and lives amongst humans. Breaks away on occasion to eat raw eat and galavant through the wild on all fours. Turns to self-harm to keep her lykos instincts under control duing tense sitiations. Fingers her Gerber skeleton-style pocket knife when she’s getting tense.

Her favorite word is “outstanding” — usually used sarcastically.

Home life, past and present

Bec was the omega in her pack (made up of immediate family members), was abused. Father and mother are sovereign citizens and live off the grid, though father has made quite a living off the oil business. Has four older brothers who partake of her abuse.

Currently lives with her ex-military husband of four years. Overall good relationship, except he’s human, doesn’t know she is a Fade, and he wants kids (Fades and humans can’t interbreed). There is underlying tension, she wants to come clean but is afraid of what he’ll do.

What makes her deeply happy/sad

Running wild as a wolf. Is saddened — and terrified — by feeling trapped: physically (as human, unable to fade into a wolf) and emotionally (as an omega, or in her relationships)

Creating a character profile is not for the faint of heart

The above is a snapshot of my protagonist — and I’ve got a lot more work to do. But its a good start.

There really is no right or wrong way to create your profile. Whether you use a free questionnaire online or come up with your own or don’t use one at all, try on different things until you find a process that works for you.

Just remember, you’re creating people. The more you become an observer of people, the better you will be able to portray them in your writing.

(And as my character grows, I can’t wait to share more with you.)

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