Characterisation is one of the most important aspects of writing a book. It is one of the 9 most important elements of Novel Writing. Whether you are working on a short story or a long-form fiction project, you need characters, and that too strong ones. They are the building blocks of your story because they provide substance and a new dimension to it.
Many people believe that in certain genres, such as mystery-thriller, romance and horror, the story is the main hero and not the characters, and therefore it’s okay to have even half-decent characters to play along when it comes to writing in these genres. But being a thriller writer myself, I think that it is completely wrong. Whether it’s thriller, mystery, horror or even romance, you need strong characters to add depth to your story. You need characters with whom your readers can connect with, can relate to and for that, you need well-written and fully fleshed-out characters.
If you wish to write a memorable book then characters are as important to your story as the plot itself, irrespective of the genre.Tweet
I’d like to state a few examples here to clear this myth:
Norman Bates, Hercule Poirot, Hannibal Lecter, Jon Snow (and literally the entire cast of characters in ASOIAF series by George R.R. Martin, Harry Potter characters, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and the rest fo the cast of LOTR series, etc, etc, etc. There are tons and tons of books that we remember more for their characterisation than the story itself.
So, the bottom line is..
when done right, characterisation possesses the power to make or break your story.Tweet
As a writer, it is very important that we put in the required work and the necessary research into building characters as realistically as we can, working hard on their backstories and personalities along with thinking about their behaviour, profession, mannerisms, mental health as well as physicalities.
And in doing so, one amazing tool that helps tremendously is the Character Profile Sheet.
So, what are Character Profile Sheets?
Character Profile Sheets are exactly what the name suggests. They are simple worksheets which help you to create detailed and distinct personalities for your characters. Simply put, Character Profile Sheets help in profiling your characters in a very systematic and organised way. They can be as short as a single page if you are an intuitive or discovery writer, or as long as 50 pages, if you are an outliner. Nonetheless, the basic idea remains the same – they help you in creating your characters from bottom to top, helping you in giving them a solid and detailed form.
While working on Character Profile Sheets you’d be surprised how easily you can go from having though of only the name and basic traits of your characters to creating realistic characters that are complex and invigorating.
Character Profile Sheets (or as I like to call them CPS), dramatically helps you in organising the important facts about your characters at a later stage as well in your project. While writing long-form fiction, one can never predict how long they’ll end up working on a single project and it can easily take years. That is when these sheets come in very, very handy because you can simply go through them to refresh your memory about a certain character from your story that you haven’t worked on since last 2-3 months (trust me, I’ve been there.)
When I was working on Deceived, I had 4 timelines to maintain and 5 complex characters to remember. The Character Profile Sheet I prepared for all the characters and timelines proved to be a lifesaver! If it wouldn’t have been for these sheets I would have been still writing the first draft for it.
Following is a shot of the Character Profile Sheets that I used for my second book, Sinister Town:
Being a compulsive planner, maintaining Character Profile Sheets for ALL my characters is not only second nature to me but a… well, compulsion. I can’t even think of starting a book without having them with me. But if you are a pantster and hate having to write them in advance, I’d still suggest you create at least a basic or just a fact-based Character Profile Sheet for the main characters. It won’t hurt to have all the facts about your main characters in one place to make sure that there are no consistency issues in your book.
Character Profile Sheets are a must, but having said that I’d also like to stress on the fact that a character’s complete personality can never be formulated. So allow some time for your characters to grow. It’s not necessary to stick only to the CPS, improvisation is necessary as well as beneficial because you can’t know fully about a character unless you start writing about them. So, remember to be flexible and accomodating while working on characterisation.
Where can I get Character Profile Sheets?
You can create your own Character Profile Sheets or download from the ones listed below. If you want more you can get thousands (and maybe more) from the internet, but if you’d ask me, 2 are more than enough.
Following are the ones that I hand-picked after going through them vigorously. They are all from great bloggers and writers are more than enough if you want to create thorough characters.
- Character Worksheet by Tara K. Harper
- Character Traits Sheet by Panix
- Big-Ass Character Sheet by Character Resource
- Cloud Control Character Sheet by Dehydromon
- Character Profile Worksheet by Writer’s Side
- Questionnaires For Writing Character Profiles by Creative Writing Now – This is similar to what I use in the initial stage of my First Draft.
- Create Colossal Characters: Blank Chart & Biography by Seven Seasons Stories
- The Most Epic Character Chart Ever by Rachel Sandene
- Character Perceptions Chart by Character Resource [Deviant Art]
- Generic Background Questionaire by Angel Fire
- 54 Conflicts Sheet by Seven Seasons Stories