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.