In order to build a complete picture of your character, in your own mind, it is a good idea to sketch out their attributes before you start writing your story.

These can be physical or personality-wise and will help you to know how your character would handle a particular situation or what he/she would look like at any given time in your story.

You won’t necessarily introduce your character by saying “She is tall, with blue eyes and black hair. She wears skinny jeans with a hoody and glasses…”

But rather, you will find that you work this information in as your story goes on…“She stared at him with her blue eyes, over the rim of her glasses…”

Having characteristics firmly in your mind before you even start writing, will ensure this happens as part of the natural writing process…

Let's start by considering a few initial details about our character…
What is his name? What age is he? Where is he from? Does he have an accent?

Now let’s look at some physical traits…
What colour are his eyes? What colour is his hair? What colour is his skin? What height is he? What is his shoe size? Is there anything visually distinctive about him?

Now for his personality…
How would you describe him? What is his sense of humour? Is he kind? Is he loyal? Is he a negative person? What makes him happy? What makes him sad? What are his likes and dislikes? What is his favourite music? What does he fear?

Bad Habits…
Does he have any bad ones? Does he pick his nose? Does he bite his nails? Does he crack his knuckles? Does he scratch all of the time? Does he eat too much sugar?

Or maybe he only has good habits?
Does he always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you?’ Does he hold doors open for the ladies? Does he shower every day? Does he always eat a healthy diet?

How about his home life?
Is it a happy one? Who are his parents? Has he any siblings? Does he share a room with a sibling? Is he messy? Does he help out at home?

And friends?
Does he have a best friend? Is he popular or not? Does he have a pet that never leaves his side or is he a loner altogether? What is he like at school/work?

A very quick mental exercise is to choose your favourite character from a book and take five minutes to write down everything you know about him/her. When you are done, read over it and see how many of the above questions it answers for you.

Remember that you know all of these things only because you read their story. You were not handed a sheet with your favourite character’s profile on it, before you read the story.

And therein lies the art of good character portrayal – getting all of the information across subtly, throughout your story. If you know your character well enough these things should reveal themselves as the story progresses.

To begin your character profiling, go to Week 1/Exercise Sheet 2 and fill one in for each of your main characters. You do not have to write every single thing down, just main points, so long as you are building a picture in your head. You can also add to this picture as your story moves on.
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