One of the aspects of a character profile is Psychological. Last time we discussed the physical traits when it comes to a character.
You can watch this video that simplifies the blog. Else continue reading.
When it comes to your character’s personality or character type we have to always discuss the backstory. The backstory is an important part of any character- why? Because they make your character who they are. But bear with me- you don’t have to write a backstory or flashback for all your characters in your book. And you don’t have to write a detailed backstory in your character profile. Just add a brief description of an event that happened in your character’s past preferably when they were young.
It can be an event or an entire childhood or lifestyle or a person/ idea that influenced your character. This backstory can just be addressed at times in your book. But don’t write everything you know about their past in your book. Write the most impacting parts. Remember hiding details from your reader doesn’t make you a bad writer. Let them piece together information or let them imagine an explanation themselves. Let the reader make your story their own in their minds. They will feel more connected. But the thing is, don’t make everything in your backstory without details – because that will be too much work for the reader. Always maintain the balance. You might find it hard to understand whether you are giving too much or too little. But it takes time- writing is just like any other art it will take time for you to master the nuances.
“Writing is its own reward.”
– Henry Miller.
You are rewarding yourself and others with the piece of work that is hiding in your PC.
Cycle of behaviour
The following questions will help you understand your character’s cycle of behaviour.
- How do your character act when there is a conflict or unexpected situation?
- How does your character handle pressure situations?
- What is their go-to solution? -is it a logical, strategic, confrontation, or running away?
- How does your character act when their plan goes out of hand?
- How does your character cope up after a failure to go about with the next conflict?
These questions are describing the actions of your character in a cycle of problems. Try and answer these questions and you might get the cycle of behaviour of your character. Cycle of behaviour might help you know how each of your characters is unique. It can also help know how your character might react in case of a conflict and you can make them act out of their cycle to make the story interesting. The cycle of behaviour changes as per the character’s personality and their arc. In the beginning, your character may have a cycle of behaviour but it may change over time with the progress of the story. So it is better if you have more than one cycle of behaviours for your character as per their character growth.
Fear is the most important aspect of your character. Believe me when I say if you can figure out what your character’s fear is you can make your character interesting, and unique. All of us act based on what we fear- I am not talking about the fear of insects or clowns. I am talking about the fear everyone has when it comes to our lives.
Some of the good examples are –
- fear of becoming a failure
- becoming pointless
- disappointing loved ones or mentors
- not getting the desired lives
- becoming like the person they hated.
These kinds of fears drive us through everything every day. We make our decisions based on that. We act based on our fears. So adding fear so deep that drives your character through all scenarios defines who your character is as a person. Think carefully to add unique fear. Also while adding fear for your characters make sure there is a reason for their fear. It is better to link it with their backstory, their lifestyle, or even their beliefs.
This is not the purpose of your character that you will define while outlining a plot or while making story arcs. Here, the purpose is what your character personally seeks and believes to establish in the future-
- a happy family
- a life partner who understands them
- achieving a high profile thing
- becoming a powerful person.
I am being vague because these purposes can mean different things based on your genre and world. For example – becoming powerful can mean becoming a CEO or Government official in contemporary fiction while it can mean becoming a sorcerer in fantasy fiction. So what they want is the purpose they see for themselves in their future life.
These are different from motive – motives are short term goals while purpose is long term
This is a basic thing to do while trying to understand your characters. There is MBTI character types which is a popular method. But there is Enneagram which helps you know important things about your character.
Way they talk
This topic is covered in the physical aspect of a character profile. But here the angle is different.
You can add the description of how your character might talk – an old person doesn’t talk without filter, a timid peasant may know his place and always talk accordingly.
There is no definitive way to tell how a person will talk – but you can hint at it like the above examples. Let me tell you this – once you start writing you get sucked into a world so deep- there is a chance you might need guidance from time to time and you might need pointers for revisions. So having such pointers will help you out and it will allow you to make all your characters have their own voice.
Five descriptive words
Yes, this is helpful. Think of five descriptive words that will cover what kind of person your character is.
Percy Jackson- Loyal, brave, sarcastic, witty, and leader.
See what I did there? These five words well define who Percy is as a person. Do this for your main characters. Believe me, it will make your characters different from one another.
- What is the most important value for your character?
- Do they value certain philosophies to an extent that they will do anything to live by that?
- Do they try to defend their actions based on their values?
- Do their actions get influenced by certain values they hold?
Then your character has core values. These core values may make the characters conflict with one another.
Though this will cover most of the psychological aspects of characters, making a questionnaire and interviewing your characters with similar questions will make your character more specific and likable.
Live through stories!