This is the list I use to jog my creativity when I'm creating characters and to help me keep track of decisions made about my characters as I write.
Each character starts off with her or his own list, but I don't "fill out" every item in the profile for each character. Rather, I read through the items and respond only to those items that seem to jump out at me (i.e., they feel important to the story I'm trying to tell). Then I start writing. As the character's personality unfolds in my writing, I return to her or his list and fill in those personality traits I've uncovered.
You can certainly fill out a complete profile for each character before you start writing about them–if that feels right for you; however, if you're like me, you may find that too constraining. Experiment with this list and find out what works best for you. Perhaps only a subset of these items will do so. If that's the case, work up your own outline which spins off this one. Perhaps this list or a spin off won't work for you at all. That's okay–any way you look at it, you'll have found what works best for you.
- What's your character's name? Nickname(s)?
- How old is s/he?
- Nationality? Birthplace?
- Academic Background:
- Attitude toward management? Attitude toward Unions?
- Attitude toward the various jobs s/he's held?
- Character's ambitions?
- Military Experience?
- Reaction to his/her military experience?
- Any traumatic incidents while in the service?
- Character's general intelligence level?
- Past Successes?
- What is the character most proud of?
- Past Failures?
- What events caused this character to be ashamed or feel regretful?
- What opportunities have been missed?
- What does the character most regret?
- What were/are they like? Abusive? Supportive? Alcoholic?
- Marital status/history?
If married or divorced–
- To whom is the character married to?
- Why did the character marry the spouse?
- How good's the relationship with the spouse and the kids?
- If separated, why?
- If divorced, under what terms?
- How many affairs or marriages has the main character had?
- When and how did s/he discover sex?
- If single, is there a significant other?
- Best friend(s)?
- Height? Weight? Hair Color? Physical frame/body type?
- Skin tone? Waist? Hair texture? Feet?
- Ears? Hands/fingers? Hair length? Legs?
- Tail? Nose? Chin? Cheeks?
- Beard? Mustache? Arms? Musculature?
- Eyes? Eye Color? Eye brows? Stomach?
- Butt? Nose? Skin? Movement?
- Face: Gaunt? Lean? Puffy? Square? Rectangular? Oval? Expressionless? Stolid?
- Body: Fat? Bloated? Thin? Bony? Frail? Muscular? Stocky?
- Demeanor: Militarily Erect? Droopy? Leads with the stomach or breast?
- Movement: Clumsy? Graceful? Stiff? Leisurely? Smooth? Brisk?
- Walk: Military? Brisk? Saunter? Hip-swaying? Leisurely? Graceful? Clumsy?
- Complexion: Sallow? Pale? Ruddy? Blotchy? Pockmarked? Pimply? Glowing?
- Gestures: Animated? None? Big & sweeping? Small & economical?
- Any physical deformities/weaknesses/handicaps?
- Style of Dress/Favorite Clothing/Jewelry Typically Worn?
- Color Preference(s)?
- How does the character see the future?
- What makes life worthwhile for the character?
- What does the character see as worth dying for?
- What does the character most hate?
- What does the character try to avoid?
- What is the character most embarrassed by?
- What is the character most fixated on?
- Any chemical substance use/abuse?
- How does the character handle change?
- Can the character easily empathize with others?
- Does the character experience severe mood swings?
- How does the character see his/herself?
- What kind of a person would the character want to be?
- How far away is s/he from achieving this ideal?
- What strengths does the character think s/he has?
- What weaknesses does the character think s/he has?
- Current driving motivations? Greed? Power? Love? Revenge? Money? Material Possessions? Winning? Territory? Lust? Hatred? Freedom? Self-respect? Respect from others? Curiosity? Life/survival?
- What's the character's favorite fantasy?
Metaprograms (Thank you, Tony Robbins):
- How does the character know when he's doing a good job? Must the feedback come from outside of him/herself? Or does he or she just know?
- Is the character's primary mode of learning seeing, hearing or feeling? What's his/her second strongest mode?
Sort by self or others?
- Does the character look at things from the perspective of what's in it for him/her? Or more from the what's in it for themselves and others?
Moving toward or away?
- What does character want or what doesn't the character want?
Matcher or mismatcher?
- Does your character respond to the world by trying to find similarities? Or dissimilarities?
What does it take to convince your character of something?
- How does the character decide something is true? Does he/she have to see it happen? Does the character have to hear others say it's true? Does he/she have to be involved with it directly to believe? Does he or she have to read it in print?
- How often does this truth have to be demonstrated? Only once? Two or more times? Over a period of time? Consistently?
Motivated by possibility or necessity?
- Does the character tend to do things only when he or she must? Or is he or she motivated by he or she wants to do, seeking out options, experiences, choices, paths?
Working style? Independent? Cooperative? Proximity?
- Is the character only happy when working independently? Does the character function better as part of a group? Or does the character prefer to work with people while maintaining sole responsibility for a task?
- Music Preference(s)?
- What does the character dream about?
- Is the character typically a leader or a follower?
- What kind of public face does the character display normally?
- How does the character show affection/love?
- How does the character show handle grief? Can the character cry?
- How does the character handle pain?
- Is the character self-effacing?
- Does the character apologize frequently?
- Does the character have a temper? How is it displayed: actively or passive- aggressively?
- Can the character keep a secret?
- Would the character drop everything and help a friend in need?
- Is the character always there for a friend in need?
- Does the character "crutch" on other people?
- Does the character make loans to friends?
- Does the character let everyone know it?
- Some people but not others?
- No one?
- Does the character like to be the center of attention all of the time?
- Does the character tell friends what's wrong with them?
- When a person is telling a story, does the character always try to outdo that person with one of his or her own?
- Does the character have a clique of friends s/he associates with to the exclusion of others?
- Is it easy for character to find good things about others?
- Does the character promise to do things and then forget?
- What role does humor play in the character's life?
- What kind of energy level does this person typically display?
- Describe the character's sense of humor.
- Character's general intelligence level?
- Chews gum? Smoke? Cigar, cigarette, or pipe? Drugs?
- Nervous twitch? Plays with mustache? Twirls hair?
- Twiddles fingers? Plays with beard? Doesn't walk under ladders?
- Doodles? Compulsive organizer? File-pile artist? Favorite jargonese?
- Sucks on Lifesavers? Drinks alcohol? Drinks coffee?
- Favorite candy? Morning ritual? Nighttime ritual?
- Drinks soda pop? Reads before bed? Sleeps on bus?
- Reads on bus? Gig line always straight? Military/business haircut?
- Whistles? Plays music to think or calm down? Picks nose?
- Pulls at ear? Holds chin in hand when listening? Oscillating leg?
- Moistens lips? Chronic U-know-itis or equivalent? Pushes glasses up on nose?
- Hums? Favorite clothing? Talks/mumbles to self?
- Folds arms? Steeples fingers? Sniffles?
- Clears throat? Eats in exaggerated delicate fashion? Compulsive cleaner?
- Calling card? Makes body contact? Talks same subjects?
- Symbol/sign? Falls asleep during presentations? Hand on knee?
- Sidles close? Hand or arm on shoulder? Taps foot?
- Stutters? Trances when thinking? Walk or run daily?
- Blinks a lot? Closes eyes when talking intimately? Nervous grooming?
- Cracks knuckles Nervous grinning? Pencil tapping?
How does your character talk?
- Does your character habitually lead off conversation with verbalisms like "so I said . . .," "let me ask you a question . . .," "I've been thinking . . .," "ya, but . . .," etc.?
- Uses a lot of slang, uses a more aristocratic tone, etc.?
- Does the character talk incessantly? Seldom? Only when important s/he do so?
HOW OTHERS SEE THE CHARACTER:
- Kind? Generous? Fun-loving? Nervous?
- Loving? Angry? Irritable? Cheerful?
- Depressed? Polite? Clean? Dirty?
- Cool? Warm? Stern? Easy-going?
- Mellow? Curious? Intelligent? Stupid?
- Ignorant? Perky/lively? Honest? Sneaky?
- Docile/meek? Courageous? Stubborn? Timid?
- Loyal? Trusting? Doubting? Outgoing?
- Persistent? Respectful? Irreverent? Principled?
- Patient? Impatient? Sharing? Stingy?
- Cruel? Manipulating? Suspicious? Aloof?
- Deceitful? Dishonest? Destructive? Accident-prone?
- Greedy? Sadistic? Masochistic? Power-hungry?
- Crazy? Forgetful? Hedonistic? Rebellious?
- Independent? Dependent? Impulsive? Meticulous?
- Insecure? Self-assured? Patronizing? Reclusive?
- Unfriendly? Slothful/sloppy? Unprincipled? Unscrupulous?
- Vengeful? Weak/vapid? Withdrawn? Spontaneous?
- Introverted? Extroverted? Self-centered?
- What is most likable about the character?
- What is most disagreeable about the character?
- How do others react to the character?