I have always enjoyed getting to know the characters behind my stories. I have obsessed over their details in my mind for years. I had figured, after the criticism that I had received in the past, that utilizing a character profile, akin to something from my gaming history, was taboo and wrong. There was this air of superiority from my past peers stating that you should know your characters in and out and to build a character profile was somehow juvenile. Of course, being someone who was not as connected to the writing world as I am now, I believed these semi-professional people and stayed away from utilizing character profiles in my writing.
It wasn’t until recently during the League of Utah Writer’s Fall Conference that I finally did away with that little gnawing monster of doubt. An author, Robin Glassey, answered a panel question stating that she kept a Character Bible to track here characters throughout her stories. All of the other authors agreed with her mention of this tool and I just had to hear more. Asking her to expand on the topic she explained that it was what I had come to know as Character Profiling from my Role-Playing background. Here I was listening to a set of five authors agreeing with what had been beaten into my head as wrong. They were, in fact, using the tool I had been denying myself for years. I was both elated and relieved.
When I got home and began poking around in preparation for NaNoWriMo I decided that I would take a stab at making my own version of a Character Bible. At the conference, Robin had been kind enough to point me towards her current Character Profile Form housed on her site. Another contribution came from a fellow writer Rebecca Winters-King in the form of a more detailed profile. My third and final influence came from cobbling together multiple Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets to make a form. Now it was time to pick or mix.
I found that all three had merit in different ways. Robin’s covered the majority of what I needed and got through a lot of the details you’d be hitting while you write. Rebecca’s form had gauges to give you an idea at how they ranged in certain behaviors or mentalities. The Dungeons & Dragon’s sheets had some items that leaned towards familiar things like bonds, traits and equipment. With all three in my hand I decided to take the time to mix them together and come up with a final version that worked for what I felt I needed to be able to visualize my characters.
You can find Robin Glassey’s form on her site here.
You can find Rebecca’s form that I converted into a word document here.
You can find the cobbled together Dungeons & Dragon’s sheet here.
You can find the Sy & Jei Character Profile final here.
One of the questions that rose when the Character Bible was mentioned was: Why not just use the book you are writing as the guide to your characters? As you go through and write your story the pages will begin to pile up. Attempting to find a single detail, saying or description about a certain character in your manuscript can be a daunting task. You might find yourself having to go through the whole book just to find that one paragraph instead of being able to quickly glance at the Character Bible you have on hand.
While the finalized version of what I have created for myself may not exactly fit your needs, it is important to map out your character either beforehand or as you write. Having those character profiles can become a great reference tool for you to use. Take a look at the four I have provided and do your own pick or mix as I have to make your own Character Bible. You’ll thank me later, I promise.
Do you use Character Profiles? If so, share with us what kind! Questions or comments are welcome!