NaNo 11: Character Profiles

100_6318 Character profiles are one of the most important parts of my outlines. No, not because I need to know everything about a character before I start writing.

It’s because I have a memory like a sieve. Once again this comes down to my long term outlining. Many of the stories I’m outlining at the moment have been in my head for over a year. Some longer. It won’t surprise me if some of the story bibles I’ve been compiling remain on my shelf until next NaNo, still waiting to be written. Thing is, I think that’s okay. My characters (as well as the story) slowly develop over time. Organically. Naturally. They become real.

But, buggered if I can remember how old some of my characters are. Their histories. Their occupations.

The profile is more for noting important details than getting to know my character. I can’t force the characters (at least the major ones) into being. They live and grow in my imagination often over a very long period of time.

Then there are the characters that I’ve written before. One of my NaNo possibilities this year is the sequel to the first NaNovel I wrote. As I read the book to refresh my memory, I noted down all those little canon details on my characters that I will need for consistency. Another possibility is in the same universe as another of my previous stories, so I have canon details to stick to there, as well. Those were the easiest character profiles I ever filled out. Brand new characters are a little more difficult, but I recommend not forcing it. If you immediately ‘know’ what his favourite colour is, then by all means, toss it in there, but if you don’t, sit back and wait and see. It might not come to you for weeks, it might not come till you’re actually writing the story, or it might never come to you at all. I don’t believe that you need to know how he drinks his coffee or where he went to school. If it matters, it will come.


I set aside a page for each character, even the minor ones (because who knows what might come to light while I’m writing). If a major character has quite a long history (which happens sometimes when I write my vampires) I’ll give them two pages so I can let the bio spill onto the second page if necessary.

The fields I use vary, depending on the genre of the book. There’s the usual name, age, appearance type headings. I’m not sure how much you can see in this photo, but for Vital Depth II which is my vampire story, I have different groups of fields for my humans and my vampires. The vampires have: Name, Other Names, Age, Origin, Position (in the vampire hierarchy), Apparent Age, a bunch of appearance fields, Mate, Maker, Progeny, etc. My humans have: Full Name, Short Name, Age, Residence, Education, Occupation, the appearance stuff, Partner (which means spouse, other half etc), Birthdate, Orientation (because I write gay romance this is applicable), etc. Everyone gets at least half a page for a general biography. But all my books are different, each of my big red books have fields which suit that particular story.

Okay, I think I’m about done here for today :) VampSlash Halloween Fest authors, you can start sending me your stuff from now. You’ve got until the 30th of October to get them in. MAKE SURE YOU READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.


4 responses to “NaNo 11: Character Profiles

  • Rachel (@Stitch_cat)

    Flailing madly here. I have my main character bios pretty much sorted..but…there is no way they will be right for each other. It won’t work. The whole plot revolves around them eventually getting together, but she is so much better suited to someone else. Gah! I know it’ll work out int he end – but getting it on paper now has underlined how much I rely on freeform when I’m writing. This outline thing is HARD!

    • vampireisthenewblack

      I know you don’t believe me, but I’m big on trusting your pantsing muscles. My first NaNo I had all planned, and then the dude that I set up with the chick and who was meant to die at the end of the book ended up living (kinda) and getting a HEA with another dude (this was also my OMG-I’m-never-writing-het-again story) and it’s my favourite thing I’ve ever written. Yeah, it twists back on itself, yeah the plot meanders and goes to a place you’d never expect, no I’ve never had any positive feedback on it from the 4 people I’ve let read it, but I don’t care. I count it a success because *I* love it and I wrote it and I finished it and it more or less makes some kind of sense if you squint.

      Plot a little. Plan a little. Or a lot. But trust your story. Let it take you where it will. And most of all, STOP FUCKING STRESSING! It’s meant to be fun :D

  • Rachel (@Stitch_cat)

    Nope, you’re just going to have to put up with the flail! While I am generally pretty good at letting it come out naturally while writing ff, this is a different beast – and honestly, the plotting, outlining, bios, etc. are helping a lot! I’ve had this story in my mind for so many years on and off – it has changed, of course, but the basic tenets are the same as when I was a virginal teen ; It’s about damn time I got off my ass and did it right – even if the NaNo version is utter shite it’ll give me something to work on :D

    So you are encouraging me no end, and despite my constant panic I’m so grateful you’re posting these helpful hints. I flove you for it <3

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