Character Profiles

A question was asked on facebook a little while ago about using character profiles to flesh out characters in the stories that people write.

In the superversiveSF livestream, the point was made that each character should have two conflicting desires, an undercurrent of some kind that goes against their role in the story to give their character depth, to be more human, for their part in the story to be more real and dramatic.

When we want to go into more detail with a character, in particular one that will be used a lot, there are many things to consider and keep consistent. I’ll outline what I do below:(which may or may not be the best approach, you decide):

I’ll start with their role in the story, and some dialogue they take part in, then from there I use an approximation of this sort of mental checklist (when I’m being really organized, I’ll actually write it out):


Including nicknames or aliases, think about what the name means, is it something that describes them well, a reputation they have rightly or wrongly earned, or something they are resentful of and rebelling against?


How they currently support themselves. Is it something they enjoy, or something they have been forced to do by someone else’s edict, or by the circumstances (e.g. the best of a bad set of options)?


What comes more naturally as well as what they have invested time and effort into learning (can be major overlaps with ‘strengths’ below).


How they were brought up, in what culture (and subculture), what character-forming events they have been through/people they have known that reinforced/undermined/added to their upbringing, helped them mature (or not), expanded their horizons or made them cynical or secretive.

Beliefs/ values/ morals:

What are they comfortable with doing, what are they prepared to do when the situation demands, and what is overstepping the line for them? What guiding principles are important to them, and how do these differ from those around them? Are these changing, or something they cling to through the turbulence of life?

Strengths/ Weaknesses:

Both in terms of physical and technical abilities and psychologically, what they can and can’t cope with well.


What their ultimate goal is beyond the immediate situation, what keeps them motivated to carry on, or tempts them to take the easy way out.


What is personally at stake for them if they fail, how invested they are in the situation (or mission), what ghosts of their past still haunt them, what aspects of normal life are incomprehensible or intimidating to them. (Can be major overlaps here with ‘weaknesses’ above)

That’s my checklist, what would you add?

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