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I was chatting a few days ago with a friend who said she had heard a term in a writing forum she didn’t know. She asked me what a character profile was and how to create one. I thought the best advice I could give her was, “The best way to keep a character profile is ‘your’ way.”

For me a character profile is where I maintain a record of my character’s past, present and future, for my friend it will properly be a place where she also keeps a record of a character’s magical powers and where and how those powers are used. To help her determine what would be best for her, I told her what works for me.

I start a character profile with the basic information such as name, sex, age and a physical description. Depending on the genre being written the next step is to determine either elements of their professional or personal life. For me it is usually the character’s professional life that is the driving force of the story. With that in mind I take the time to decide on their level of education and what schools, if any, they attended and the degrees they earned. How they use their education will often play a big role in the story so I would then need to decide for example if an architect works from his home office and designs houses or if he is one of many architects in a huge firm whose buildings are changing the cityscape. Only once I have sketched this out do I turn to their personal life. Then I make a list of the traits I feel would best describe the character I envision.

I know a few people who have a complicated character checklist or character worksheet, several pages long, which they fill out in great detail. I do not. I find I get a better feel for my character by writing a story for myself of how he got the scar on his forearm then making a list of all the visible scars on his body.

At least that is how I started out doing a character profile – written documents.

But my characters and I have grown closer. They have welcomed me into their lives and given me a look at their style. Reese, from my MILLRIDGE series, enjoys a formal setting, very pristine, white and crisp with everything in its place, while Rachel, from my RACHEL SHORTE MYSTERIES series, is more laid back, prefers comfort to aesthetics and doesn’t freak out when you drag remnants of your day on Sabine Lake into her home. Now that I know my characters so well, I have gone visual with their profiles. I take pictures of things I believe fit who they are and collect others from the net. Reese and Rachel have Pintrest boards that remind me just how different they are.

Since I am writing a series of novels the most important thing for me is to keep the character list accurate. If I originally said she has one brother, but then write about her getting dragged into a feud between her brothers I need to go back and give birth to her sibling or else I might completely forget about him in a sequel.

Do you keep a character profile? How involved do you get?