If you haven’t yet read part 1, I would recommend doing so – ideally before reading this post, although afterwards would also work.
As I mentioned before, I regard character development as one of the most important aspects of fiction writing.
Other elements, such as plot, are important too, but without strong characters, plot isn’t enough. And some weaknesses in plot can actually be forgiven, once the characters have their place in our hearts.
I mentioned not being a fan of character sheets, and the whole “laundry list” approach to character creation.
It’s not so much that character profiles can’t be useful, but they don’t feel sufficient to me.
There’s usually a category, for example, about hobbies and interests.
I find this particularly difficult to complete, and do feel it’s one section, in which “for the sake of completing the box” type answers tend to appear. Does your character actually love cooking, rocking climbing, and badminton? Or did you literally just make that up on the spot, because it sounds like a good answer, and because you already used crochet and tennis for the last character?
Physical appearance is another category, routinely included on every character profile list out there.
If I needed to write down that my main character, Lucy, has red hair, in order to remember this, it would be kind of bizarre. Minor characters, possibly – but surely we should know what our central characters look like? We should be able to “see” them. Do you seriously write down your own sister’s hair colour, in case you don’t recognise her, the next time you bump into her? To me, it would be equivalent.
It’s also worth noting that, although someone might have should-length, thick, wavy, light brown hair – maybe the reader won’t need that much information. This isn’t a problem with character profiles, as such – but just a point that’s worth keeping in mind. Many writers who take the “laundry list” approach to character creation, have a tendency to include the entire “laundry list” in their stories, which generally doesn’t read well. Being selective is key.
One of the most important aspects of character development is taking time to understand the various important relationships, in the lives of your different characters.
I’ve written a post about how to create believable romantic relationships in your fiction, and another that focuses upon friendships. But consider family relationships, those with work colleagues, and any other relevant relationships, also. Together, these relationships form an important part of who the character is – and, as such, they deserve time and attention.
I would say to look at any or all of the categories on any standard character profile sheet, if you wish – but really take the time to consider each question. Mechanically filling out the blanks is unlikely to result in deep characterisation. Get to know your fictional people over time, and enjoy the process. That way, hopefully, future readers will want to know them, too.