By the time I’d arrived at my third novel, I learned to save myself some time and angst: I copied and saved into these profiles any descriptions of the characters actually included in the manuscript. This allows me to refer back and maintain consistency from book to book. For me, the author, years will pass between the publication of books, so it is easy to forget some details. But readers may finish one book in a matter of days and then pick up the next one. For them, the details will remain fresh, and they’ll notice and be disturbed by any discrepancies.
Some software programs—Scrivener, for example—provide character templates ready-made for this practice. Having spent a career working in Microsoft Word, it is easier to just create them myself from the functions I already know. They’re intended only for my eyes, so they don’t have to be pretty. My time needs to be focused on the story, not the creation of side documents.
I also use Pinterest extensively. I have a private folder to collect images of secondary characters, locations, wardrobe examples, maps, and more. Lord Holland and the Earl of Antrim, for instance, are only mentioned tangentially in my book, but perhaps one of my main characters may want to refer to their looks in some snarky way. In the 17th century, most of the nobles had their portraits painted, so I can find and copy them to my Pinterest folder to inform that description.
It's Fun -- But It's Not the Main Gig
The thing is, these character profiles can be great fun to build, but beware, they can also be a time-sink. I have to remind myself they are tools, not the main gig. My focus must always be on the story, first and foremost.
There are MANY articles and videos online about character profiling. I recommend just letting your own imagination do its thing, but here are a few websites you might enjoy:
Questionnaires for writing character profiles
Character Charting (fill in the blanks!)
Or pick and choose traits from a random profile generator:
Or you can always do the WHO and Ten Absolute Truths exercises provided by our lovely and talented director of education.