Writing Tips

Writing Tips: Character Profiles

Lots of announcements today before I share my thoughts on creating character profiles:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 17,000 followers! This is truly amazing, and I cannot believe that we’re continuing to grow. I started this little blog without any expectations, but if I had started it with expectations – I’m positive you have surpassed even my wildest dreams. Thank you for your continued support!

Other than that, I partook in an interview with Lit Chic. You can read what I think the hardest part about writing is, but I also have a shout out for all of my readers 😀 So click here to read the entire interview.

And if you are just now checking in and you’re curious about The Timely Death Trilogy, you’re in luck:

Hines and Bigham’s Literary Tryst reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2) – Mindy says, “If you are a Young Adult fan and love a book that can make you feel like you are part of the story and part of a different world you have to read this trilogy. I know I love it!” But I have to share her favorite part of book 2. This excerpt happens when Eric is talking to his guard about Jessica and deciding if he should tell her the truth.

“I don’t know how she’d take all of this at once, especially without proof.”

“So, transform in front of her.”

“And give her a heart attack?” I couldn’t imagine her reaction. “No, thank you.”

“At most, she’d faint.”

Read her favorite romantic moment as well as the entire review by clicking here.

If you haven’t read book 1, My Library in the Making reviewed Minutes Before Sunset this week, stating, “One of the top reasons why I enjoyed this book was all the conspiracies.” But you can read the full review, including her favorite quote and favorite scene by clicking here.

Hope you check out Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise! Your growing support is the ink in my typewriter. Without you, my words would be invisible.

Now, onto today’s post (thank you for sticking with me!)

Writing Tips: Character Profiles 

A few weeks ago, I wrote The Beginning of my Writing Process, in which I revealed many details about how I first start off creating a novel. In the comments, I found a fantastic question about building character profiles, so today – this post is dedicated to Taking on a World of Words. I’ll be discussing three key elements I focus on when building a character profile – something I do BEFORE I write a novel – and I will be using Sophia Gray, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Take Me Tomorrow, as an example. If you are interested in reading my dystopian book, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com for an ARC.

1. The Basics

I suggest covering these first when taking down notes because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by trying to cover a vast amount of complicated information first. So – even though I know the complicated stuff first – I always begin taking my notes with the basics. This includes a small physical description, strong personality traits, and background. This is sort of like taking your driver’s license and adding your personality to it. If you like using pictures for inspiration, then grab some from Pinterest, and build from there. (And never be afraid to change things as long as you take note and edit it in your final draft.) Here’s an example of something you might come up with:


I don’t normally create photos such as that, but I wanted to show what can be done. Below you’ll find some information from my notes about Take Me Tomorrow. (I had to cut a lot of it to avoid spoilers, but this shows my organization process)

“Sophia (16) Sophia Elizabeth Gray

Physical: always wears her mother’s necklace, curly, brown hair, barely 5 foot, three small scars on her neck from Lily’s black cat, Saga. But she also has scars on her arms and legs from the forest.

Personality: loves running, close relationship with her father and Lyn, a stubborn heart. Prefers sweaters and jeans over dresses and heels.

Background: Born in Albany Region, moved to Topeka Region when she was seven, currently lives with her father, Lyn, and Falo.”

2. Timelines

Create a past, present, and future timelines. This is where things begin to get complicated, but don’t fret. Start simple – with everything you know – and make sure nothing contradicts anything else. From there, I would suggest figuring out things you don’t know (when did your protagonist meet their best friend?) Don’t forget: if you write it on your timeline that doesn’t mean you have to write it in the book, but it is safe to know everything and anything you can think of. I would even go as far as saying you should create separate timelines for each character while also creating one large timeline that shows overlaps between characters. Below is a VERY small example of Sophia’s past timeline. This includes the top five major events that happen before the novel ever takes place.

timeline3. Cover Everything 

I mean it. I know it sounds like a lot of work – and it is – but it will save you a lot of trouble in the end.  I create so many maps it’s ridiculous. I even have a “height’s map” which shows what characters would look like standing next to one another. Another example of a character map I had for Take Me Tomorrow is a map with every character’s home (past and present), and routes that they took from home to school to work (basically, anywhere they walked.)

Basically, you can never have too many notes. If you want to graph out the neighbor’s life who is never mentioned, then do it. In fact, you know the years that I picture Take Me Tomorrow to be in, but the actual years are never mentioned in the novel. Most of all, have fun! Never forget to have fun.



16 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Character Profiles

  1. You are so right on with these helpful tips about writing. I actually do cards like this, and it is so helpful when writing. It’s easy to forget simple things about a character and cards, whether printed or digital, are helpful. I personally actually do use photos, that also helps me when describing details of a character’s look.

    1. I do keep pictures and descriptions, just separate. 🙂 I used to make picture books, because I absolutely love them, but I stopped because of printing costs (and how much I’d change the characters from start to finish). Thanks for sharing what you do to create character profiles! Sounds like fun! 🙂

  2. Excellent post but I was wanting too know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be vdry grateful if you could eelaborate a little bit further.

  3. I write up character bios by hand in a notebook . . . pile of notebooks. It not anything as neat as what you’ve shown. Just a page of notes about role, physical description, personality, history, future, and how they act toward other characters. One thing that happens from these notes is that personalized subplots appear for heroes and villains. For example, one character of mine ended up revealing that he’s actually married by the time I was done with his bio.

    1. It’s funny you say that – my notes aren’t neat at all! I created these nice, example pictures just for this post. If I took a picture of my real notes…Oh, man…I doubt my advice could be taken seriously because no one would be able to read it.

      1. Sign of a true author. Notes crammed into every drawer and shelf with half of them being variations of the same thing. At least that’s what I’m working with. I’m trying to condense everything between projects, so I don’t have to rifle through years of notes to find one piece of information.

  4. Good advice. I do something similar, but in notebooks. Usually, I fill up about a page and a half for my basic character profiles. Extremely helpful for keeping characters in character.

  5. Thank you for that, that’s very helpful. I think I’ll take your advice and do some background work on my characters. I think it could prove useful. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

  6. Congrats on the followers! You’ve been busy! Thanks for the shout out, btw. I hope you like your feature:)

  7. I have done much the same thing with my novels. A paragraph or two for each character, a timeline, photos or drawings of characters, and one more thing… I treat locations and some of the tech toys (cars, spaceships, weapons, etc.) as characters, too. They each have profiles.

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