Creating a character template as a writer of fiction can help you to develop a strong character bio. Also known as a character profile or character sketch, these templates can help you decide and plot out how a character’s life will be affected by things like conflict and plot and how your character will interact with other characters in your story.
Character Profile Template
A character profile template can be made and customized entirely by the author, or they can be found in as great of detail as any writer could possibly desire online or in writing guides. A character profile template will help you plan things such as exactly what your character’s physical appearance is. There is a character template sheet for nearly every part of your character. Filling these out and keeping these handy before you even begin writing can significantly help you with character development.
Character Bio Template
A character bio template will help you develop realistic characters. A large part of character development has a believable character, and having the completed biography of your characters will help you achieve just that. You can even create and prepare these templates in nonfiction writing to help you understand and describe your characters in historical or real stories in a manner that gives the reader a well-rounded and developed character rather than a stuffy historical figure we’ve all heard of but don’t care about.
What Information is Included in Character Templates?
Character templates require the author to fill out the information and answer a lot of questions about the characters they are developing for their stories. Character profiles include information that ranges from what the character’s dream job was as a child to what your character fears most, loves most, etc.
You will see questions such as: What does your character dislike? What does your character look for in a partner? What does your character do for fun? These all seem like silly questions, especially if they have no bearing on the plot you have developed, but having answers to these questions and many more will produce a character that seems so real that they could get up and walk off the page.
Below we will discuss in detail what you can add to create our own character template.
Your Character’s Appearance
The way your character looks is very important. You need to be consistent in your description once you start writing, so documenting what your characters look like is very important so that you can reference it as you write.
It’s not enough to mention the character archetype your protagonist or antagonist falls into and leave it to the reader to fill in the blanks. Each person has their own idea of what a hero, magician, villain, or lover looks like. The actual story needs to have the complete physical description of your characters, especially that of your main character so that the audience has a collectively similar idea of the character’s appearance.
Physical Attributes and Relevant Details
Your characters’ physical appearance should be decided and recorded on your character bio template. Things such as the character’s name, birth date (so that age is determined), and exactly what the character looks like are essential and can even influence the character’s actions in the story.
The character’s relationship status also matters because a single person has less to lose than someone with a significant other or family.
Your main characters’ physical characteristics need to be described in more detail than secondary or tertiary characters. You can get away with something like, “The tall woman tending the bar that night had dark hair and tired eyes. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days,” for a tertiary character that we won’t see again and won’t have more than two or three lines of dialogue. This won’t work for your protagonist or antagonist, though.
Physical traits that should be noted for your characters are things like: skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, distinguishing features like scars, tattoos, and birthmarks, eye color, and body type. Your reader will have difficulty establishing an emotional connection with a character if they don’t know what the character looks like.
Your character’s background is also necessary to establish before you even start the writing process of your short story or novel. Does your character have a family of their own? Are they close with their extended family? Does your character have an ongoing internal conflict that influences their actions and motivations in life?
Again, you can either come up with your own template for this information, or you can find a free template online. A template character sheet can also be found in many writing guides you can find in bookstores.
When deciding on a background for your character, consider more than just the recent past. If your protagonist is an older person, consider going all the way back to their childhood or teenage years. What was it like growing up in the era they grew up in? What did the world look like then?
These small details can develop your characters into people with whom your audience will develop a bond and emotional connection.
The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Good Character Profile
Aside from appearance and background, what other information should you know and document about your characters so that you can describe them realistically in your fiction? Do you really need to know what your character’s favorite music is or what their pet peeves are? Why do these details matter to the story?
These small details matter because when you know this information, we can use it to our advantage as writers. In the following example, note how knowing music preferences and annoyances can aid in developing not only the character but also the story as a whole.
Jones sat in the booth in the corner of the bar, nursing the draft beer he’d ordered nearly an hour ago. He drank so slowly because he didn’t like to be bothered when he was feeling lonely and reflective, and small talk had always annoyed him. It more than annoyed him if he was being honest.
Engaging in small talk for the sake of manners made him downright angry. He came here to sip beer and listen to the sad country songs that played on the jukebox. Something about the tragic and trembling voice of Willie Nelson or the nasal pitch of Hank Williams took him back to his youth when he still believed that love could be a beautiful and worthwhile thing. Country music had always brought out the philosopher in Jones.
He was sitting there, taking in the sad, crooning voice of Patsy Cline, when the woman in the tight jeans, smeared make-up, and big hair slid into the booth across from him. More like I fell into it. She smiled, and her eyes didn’t quite smile with her mouth. “Don’t you just hate this awful music? Like, if you’re so sad, have a drink. But shut up, right? Gee, I hate country music. You looked lonely. Wanna chat?” And just like that, Jones saw red.
In the above example, small things, such as music preference and what annoys a character, can make a difference and advance the plot. We don’t know what this character did, but we know that not only did her visit to his booth insult his choice in music, but she also engaged him in small talk, which was a significant peeve of his.
Maybe he reacted violently. Perhaps he was simply rude. Perhaps he got up and just left. Perhaps he threw his drink at her. We expect a reaction because we know his preferences and annoyances.
1. Creating a Sense of Realism
Your story can have any unreal aspects you create. Your setting can be anywhere. It doesn’t even have to be set on Earth. Your plotline can be crazy and unbelievable. However, the way you describe how your character responds to all of this needs to be realistic.
Suppose you describe a character with a low energy level as a detective in a large city. In that case, no one is ever going to believe he’s going to be motivated enough to identify, chase, and catch a criminal mastermind. If his most significant accomplishment is that he sometimes eats a salad for lunch instead of the donuts in the precinct break room, no one is going to believe that he’s going to jump a fence in pursuit of a robber.
You have to write a personality and life for your characters that fit the plot and the setting. The details about your character’s life have to give us someone who will react realistically to the conflicts that you throw at them.
2. Define Relationships for Your Characters
Another thing you should include in your character template is the relationships your characters have, not only with each other but in general. In your writing, it’s only natural that relationships will be formed. Your protagonist’s personality should provide you with details as to how the character will react and behave when those relationships occur.
Think about the personality of your character in relation to other people. Do they socialize with people their own age? Do they get along with children? What is the relationship like with their best friend? How would the character define romantic love? Does your character have a personality that attracts people to them? At what age did your character first experience love and heartbreak?
Fill in these blanks, and you may find that you have created a character that has good development. The entire point of a character template is accomplished when the end result is a realistic character.
3. Create a Relationship with the Reader
Your character needs to create a relationship with the reader, or most people aren’t going to care about what happens to them. You’ll have to do more background work than let them know the character’s age and favorite color. You have to invest in not only the entire past and present of your character but in their future.
You have to make the character so realistic and so deserving of an emotional response from the reader that the point of the story goes from the plot to what happens to the character for the reader. If you want to create a work of fiction that will end up the favorite book of your audience, you have to give them a character they can feel strongly towards. The storyline may matter, but the life of the character and how the story impacts the character matters more in a truly good book.
The Importance of Strong Characters in a Book Series
Making a character profile template will help you to get there. A strong character profile will give you everything that you need for any and all characters that you want the readers to connect with. This is especially important if you plan to write a book series since the character will live out several stages of life across several works of fiction before the story really ends.
Starting out with a well-written character is essential to gaining an audience that will stick around long enough to read several books about the same cast of characters.
Think about a book series you have read. Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, The Dark Tower, The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, etc. Do you know what the characters look like? Do you know their backgrounds? Do you know their likes, dislikes, feelings, and the way they think?
Chances are, if you stuck around for more than one book, it’s because the author wrote a good character profile template and produced well-rounded characters that you felt connected to early on and formed a bond with. Those are the types of characters that you, as an author, should aspire to write.