Free Character Profile Template
So, you have a great idea for a short story or novel, and it’s time to outline your main character — but how do you keep track of your character creation process?
By using our FREE character profile template!
Our character bio template is a handy guide full of in-depth questions that will help you construct a better picture of your story’s hero.
Read on to discover more about why characters matter and how to use our FREE template.
Free Character Profile Template
Start creating detailed, compelling characters today!
Creating compelling characters is incredibly important for any story.
Like real human beings, every character’s looks, personality and actions are influenced biologically, socially, and from their life experiences.
Often, regardless of the plot or genre of your book, it’s the characters that people remember, and a flat character can make even the most thrilling of plots boring to read.
What Is A Character Profile?
Characters are more than just vehicles used in your story to move the plot along.
Character development is key for creating fictional characters who are three-dimensional, and so realistic readers will remember them for a long time to come.
By using our FREE character-building template, you will be asking yourself the key questions that build a character’s life.
These questions go beyond simply a character’s physical appearance. You need to dig deep and think about the character’s personality — everything from their childhood and back story, to their wants, desires and fears.
Realistic characters are far from perfect, they are no different to you and me, so get ready to discover as much as you can about them.
All About Our FREE Character Profile Template
The art of character creation is not easy — which is why we are here to help!
Our character template contains all the in-depth questions you need to ask the cast of your next story in order to create characters that are totally lifelike, detailed and surprising.
Our free template will give you:
- Rounded characters that will jump off the page.
- Characters that your readers are more likely to remember.
- The ability to write with greater freedom.
- A more compelling story.
- A handy guide to refer back to at all the time.
When you know your characters well, you’re more likely to be able to write from their viewpoint without strain or effort. It makes writing not only more enjoyable but much easier too!
How To Use Our Character Template
Our UCB (Ultimate Character Builder) is a two-step procedure:
• You ask your character a million questions.
• Then you answer them.
This Jericho Writers character bio template is a simple prompt sheet full of character development questions.
By filling in this template for each of your main characters, you will get a more rounded and deeper idea of who they are, what they look like, how they act, and what they want.
Having a handy template to refer to also helps with consistency — especially when writing a series.
In turn, each character profile will influence the plot of the story as believable characters often take over the writing!
So, before you start writing your story, make sure you know your characters even better than you know your friends, family… or even yourself!
Why Are Compelling Characters Important?
No one wants to read a story where all they know about the character is that his name is Sam and he’s tall with brown hair.
That doesn’t make the reader connect with Sam, care about whether Sam fulfils his dreams, or empathise with his struggles.
But when you dive deeper into what makes the character who they are, why they act and think the way they do, and give them character traits that make them unique and interesting to read, then readers are more likely to not only believe what your character does in the book — but also understand why.
Building a solid character profile template can help with all of that.
And here’s how…
Building Your Characters In 12 Easy Steps
Every little detail about your character matters — from their favourite music to their energy level.
If I told you Sam does everything slowly and methodically but enjoys listening to Guns’n’Roses, you will already have an idea of what kind of character he is (including age, physical features and what he wears).
But if I told you Sam listens to Taylor Swift and is clumsy and erratic, again you would imagine him completely differently.
And that’s just two tiny character traits!
A fully developed character can influence your plot too.
By knowing how your character thinks and who they truly are, many of their decisions in your story will write themselves as that particular character could only ever act a certain way.
Let’s take a look at the 12 easy steps to building strong characters, and all the different things you need to consider.
1. The Basics
You can’t avoid the most basic of information for your character, so let’s start there.
Name, age, date of birth, gender, and current residence — these are the foundations from which you build the rest.
Writing about an 18-year-old girl who lives in London will look very different to writing about a Spanish 68-year-old man.
Always Go Deeper…
For a start, knowing the birth date isn’t enough. Ask yourself:
- What’s their star sign?
- Are they happy that they celebrate their birthday in that month?
- What if they are born on a leap year or Christmas Day, how does that influence their personality?
- Will their birthday feature in your story? If so, how will they celebrate it?
You can ask yourself the same questions about where they were born, where they live now, how they feel about being the age they are, and how they feel about being the gender they are.
Always go beyond the obvious.
In many cases, when writers are describing a central character they outline their physical attributes first — hair colour or hairstyle, height, eye colour, and the colour of their skin.
But, when you come to think about it, all of that rarely changes the character’s actions or the development of the story. Who really cares if the love interest has brown hair or black?
So go deeper and ensure your main character’s appearance says more about them than a police line-up would.
Here Are Some Interesting Questions You Can Ask About Your Character’s Appearance:
- Do they wear accessories? Big earrings, a gold chain, strange hats etc.
- Do they wear glasses (or maybe they need them but refuse to wear them)?
- What distinguishing features do they have? A mole, a birthmark, a scar?
- How do they feel about their height, build, or the colour of their hair?
- Can any of the above affect the story or add horror, intrigue, tension or humour to the plot (depending on the genre)?
For instance, a story about a short plump girl who dreams of being a model will be a lot more interesting than a story about one who already looks like a conventional model.
3. Mannerisms And Body Language
Like physical appearance, a character’s actions and how they conduct themselves give readers a very firm first impression of them.
Returning to our flat character, Sam, if he were to simply ‘walk’ everywhere we wouldn’t know that he was erratic or measured in his actions.
Ask yourself about the distinct way they move and if your characters:
- Rush around
- Laze about
- Are clumsy
- Act erratically
- Walk too slowly
- Tread heavily
- Silently move about
How Do They Interact With Others?
Characters who avoid eye contact are going to be very different to those who stand too close to others when speaking loudly in their face.
These quirky traits work really well for side characters, especially if they are a foil to your main character.
Having a lazy sidekick alongside your energetic investigator is a lot more fun to read about than having every character act the same.
How a character talks is just as important as what they say. This also helps you decide what speech tags to use (although don’t get too carried away with adverbs).
When considering how your character talks, consider the following:
- Accent (there’s no need to write it as an accent, that rarely works well)
- Speech impediments (as above)
- Speech patterns (do they pause a lot? Repeat words like ‘yeah’ or ‘OK’)
- Age plays a big part in the kind of language they use
- Is their voice loud or quiet? Soft or harsh? Is it grating and irritating to others?
When creating character profiles remember that not everyone has to have a different accent or way of moving, nor do they necessarily need to have their physical attributes explained.
Simply honing in on a few of these character traits can really bring a character to life!
5. Childhood And Upbringing
Now let’s look at things beyond the immediately obvious — because your character’s past and how that affects them also says a lot about them.
Think about their past relationships and how they may have coloured who your hero is today.
Would Bond act like he does if he’d had a happy childhood and went on to get married and live in the suburbs with his wife and three children?
What about Oliver Twist? Or Eleanor Oliphant? Or Dracula?
Sometimes it helps to write an entire story about your main character’s past, even if you don’t plan to include it in the book, as it will definitely help shape who they are, how they act, and what decisions they make.
Think About The Past
- Were they rich or poor growing up?
- What was their relationship with their parents and siblings like?
- Did anything happen in their childhood that scarred them? (Bullying, abuse, loss of a pet etc)
- Did they live somewhere different as a child than they do now?
- What was their education like? Did they leave school at thirteen or do they have a PhD in biochemistry?
If your main character is a 35-year-old investment banker living in Surrey – he would be a very different character had he been brought up in a rough London council flat by an alcoholic mother and abusive father, than if his parents were a lord and lady and he had his own pony growing up.
Very often understanding a character’s backstory before you start writing can influence the plot and story direction for this very reason.
Free Character Profile Template
Start creating detailed, compelling characters today!
6. Family Members
Who your character is surrounded by matters because no character completely stands alone.
Do they have siblings, and if so do they still get on with them?
A character who is an only child will be a very different character than one who was the eldest of ten children!
What about extended family?
Aunts, uncles, cousins, and stepfathers can all play a role in a story.
Even if they don’t feature in the main plot, having had a mean and cruel great aunt growing up may influence the way your character acts today.
Do they have children or grandchildren?
If so, how many and how old are they? What’s their relationship like with them? Did they find being a parent fun or exhausting, or did it scar or change them in some way?
As I said earlier, if the character Bond had children waiting for him at home then his actions, decision making, and therefore storylines, would be very different.
7. Relationship Status
Likewise, the character’s love interests and marital status can make a big difference as to who they are and how they behave.
If our hapless flat character, Sam, were a party animal who regularly had sex with different men and women but refused to have a serious relationship with anyone, our story would be a lot different to one about a character called Sam who had never had a relationship with anyone, or the Sam who married his childhood sweetheart and was still in love with her forty years later.
8. Beliefs And Morals
A character’s beliefs don’t just mean their religion, but the things that mean a lot to them.
Maybe they are vegan and believe animals are equal to humans.
Or perhaps they believe in UFOs after a strange childhood experience where they believe they encountered an alien.
Or maybe they are homophobic, or a Nazi sympathiser, or don’t believe their wife should work and want her to stay home with the children.
Ask yourself how your character’s beliefs shape them and whether they will change by the end of the book.
Creating Contrasting Foils
It can be a lot of fun adding contrasting morals and beliefs to a character. What about:
- An animal lover who works in an abattoir
- A moralistic, highly religious, thief
- A science teacher who is adamant dinosaurs don’t exist because they don’t appear in the Bible
9. Health (Mental, Physical, And Trauma)
Health plays a big part in how a character feels, moves, behaves, the decisions they make, and how they interact with others.
How physically healthy is your character?
Do they go for a run every morning and only eat a Keto diet? Or do they smoke twenty cigarettes a day and are addicted to peanut M&Ms?
Is your character abled-bodied or do they have a disability? Were they born with their disability or was it as a result of an accident? How does that change who they are and how they interact with others?
Please remember not to use disability as a plot point, or as a negative trait, especially if you have no experience with it yourself.
What about their mental health or neurodiversity?
Are they anxious? Do they have dyslexia, ADHD, autism, OCD, or depression?
You don’t have to even explain any of this and it doesn’t have to be fundamental to the plot — but if, in your head, your character battles with any of these things you can show that through how they behave or what they struggle with/excel in.
Past trauma can also really affect a character’s personality (and sometimes even their physical appearance).
Ask yourself whether that trauma simply shapes them, or is key to the plot. In some cases, it may even be the catalyst or the plot twist.
10. Goals, Dreams And Aspirations
What does your character want?
A character’s story goal is a fundamental part of outlining a plot (if the character isn’t trying to achieve anything in your story, readers will soon stop turning the pages). But understanding their wants and desires often helps build a character too.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What would their dream job be? And why aren’t they doing it?
- What would solve their issues right now? (Money, power, love, sex, having a child, getting that promotion they want, buying their dream car)
- Are they happy? If not, why not? What would give them perfect happiness?
- Where do they want to be in a year, or five, or when they retire?
11. Loves And Passions
Again, what a character loves says a lot about them.
Maybe they love their pets and children, or maybe they really love trains and blue ice-cream.
Perhaps they’re obsessed with all things Elvis, or they enjoy making toy planes, or they play video games ten hours a day.
Loves and passions can add a quirky twist and lots of personality to a character.
In John Green’s YA novel Paper towns, Q’s best friend Radar tries — and fails — to hide his parents’ enormous collection of black Santa Claus memorabilia.
12. Fears And Dislikes
Likewise, what a character hates, what they fear, and their pet peeves can tell you a lot about them.
Not only can this knowledge be used as a plot device and foreshadowing for when that character’s strength may be challenged, but it can also be indicative of past trauma or can add humour, tension or intrigue to a character.
Here are some famous literary characters with specific fears that define/affect the book’s storyline:
- Peter Pan and Dorian Gray fear growing old
- Ron Weasley is arachnophobic
- Miss Havisham fears change
- Don Quixote hates windmills (or reality in general)
- Lady Chatterley fears sullying her reputation
Other characters have anxiety stemming from childhood trauma and having to confront their fears on a daily basis — such as Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Elsa from Frozen.
Top Tips For Character Development
Good characters go beyond the page, living outside of the story.
But before you can use our character profile worksheet to flesh out both your major characters and supporting characters too, where do you go to find inspiration for these story heroes? And what techniques can you use to spark your imagination?
Practice Writing People You Know
I don’t for a second suggest you base your story on someone you know (that will only lead to some very sticky situations), but sometimes you can mix together quirky traits of people you have encountered throughout your life.
A good writer is always watching, listening, and taking mental notes.
Perhaps your great uncle Jeff clears his throat all the time and your old boss used to say ‘now, then’ before starting a sentence. Combining both of them and giving that tic to a character will paint a very vivid picture of them.
Often that alone is all a reader needs to know about them to decide exactly what kind of person they are!
Use Images To Inspire You
Interesting characters jump of all pages, including magazines and newspapers, Pinterest, the internet, or even famous paintings.
Often, writers like to create an entire mood board of faces (be they famous or not) like a virtual movie cast, so they can refer back to their characters when describing what they look like.
You can even base your entire character on someone from a photo or painting. Vermeer’s painting, Girl With The Pearl Earring, inspired author Tracy Chevalier to write her novel of the same name.
Watch And Listen
Take inspiration from strangers in real life. Sit in a park, cafe, busy street or on the bus and watch and listen to people.
- How do they talk?
- What kind of things do they say?
- What are they wearing?
- How do they move?
- Does anyone do anything unusual? (Like sit their pet ferret beside them on the train, eat an entire birthday cake while walking down the road, or carry a handbag shaped like a hotdog.)
Use it. Use it ALL!!
Social Media Platforms
Likewise, step into the virtual world too and see how differently people interact online than they do in reality.
What excites people? What triggers then? How do they speak to one another? Does age, background, and where people are from affect how they portray themselves online?
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do You Write In A Character Profile?
A character profile, such as our Jericho Writers FREE character profile template, is simply a very long list of questions that you should be asking yourself about each main character.
Remember to go beyond the obvious (age, height, appearance, name etc) and ask yourself who they really are deep down; passions and fears, their background and childhood, dreams and aspirations, personality quirks and tics, their body language and how they talk.
How Can I Develop My Character?
To create a believable character you need to dig deep.
So, let’s say you have a character called Maria who is 27, short, with Mediterranean features, and she’s looking for love.
You may think that’s enough to start writing your rom-com but to create a truly memorable character you need to push these aspects even harder.
Why is Maria looking for love? Has she been hurt in the past? How did that affect her?
Why is she so scared of being single? Does she fear being alone, or is she getting pressure from her family to get married?
What is standing in the way of her and true love? Is it something tangible, or is it herself?
Does she have fears or flaws she needs to confront?
Or maybe she’s simply very annoying or quirky and she needs to find someone who is equally as different as her.
When you delve deeper and interrogate your characters like this, you go beyond what they look like and what they want and start getting answers to all the ‘why’ questions.
Time To Get Writing
You may have reached the end of this guide to using our character profile template with more questions than answers, and that’s great — because having lots and lots of questions is exactly what you need to develop your characters as much as possible.
Good luck discovering all your characters, and remember you can use our profile template as many times as you need for as many characters and stories as you wish to create. Happy writing!
Free Character Profile Template
Start creating detailed, compelling characters today!