Excuse me just a moment, I just have to put this soapbox away.

There.  I won't be needing that today.   Because, even though, as an ex-teacher, I find it hard to resist, I am not going to lecture anybody.  So if you love writing character profiles almost as much as you love chocolate rainbow flavoured ice cream, then that is absolutely fine by me.  Go right ahead.

I'm just expressing my personal opinion.

Let's just define what I mean by a character profile.

Many people recommend that one way you can get into your characters is to complete a profile using a fairly standard set of prompts, such as:

  • Appearance
  • Personality traits
  • Habits
  • Education
  • Sayings
  • Favourite food.

You get the idea.  Now, to me, that feels like filling in a form.  And I hate filling in forms.  But for me, there's a deeper objection.

Many people will tell you that characters drive your fiction.  But there's more to it than that.  Characters drive my writing.  I'll explain.

Writing a full-length novel is a long, hard slog.  The thing that keeps me going is partly self-discipline, but I'm pretty sure that discipline alone would not produce a book that I'd be proud of.  To produce some worthwhile work, I need to be (psychobabble alert) emotionally invested (psychobabble ends) in the work.  Or, as us normal people like to say, I need to enjoy writing the damn thing.  I need to get up in the morning and really look forward to hitting the keys.  And one of the things that I particularly enjoy is meeting my characters and finding out what they're like.  When I start to write, even when I've got a solid outline to work from, I don't actually know what my characters are going to do.

Which is sometimes quite worrying.   Also, it's eerily similar to those ventriloquists who end up having real conversations with their creepy dummies.  But I wouldn't have it any other way.

When I meet a person in real life, I would hate to know everything about them straight away.  I'd much rather find out later if that boring guy from Accounts is actually a gifted amateur ballet dancer.  That revelation, that surprise would be a wonderful moment and one that I'd like to share with others.  And to a writer, moments like that are gold dust.

So if my characters sometimes ruin a perfectly good outline, then that's a price worth paying.

Feel free to chip in via the splendid comment box below.

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