Wondering what a character template is and what purpose it serves? Always wanted to create one out of stretch but never could quite figure out how to? Well, that’s why you’re here, aren’t you?
We’re going to learn about the ABCs (and maybe even the DEFGs) of a basic character template today.
What’s a character template look like and why is it important?
Think of a character template as your reference guide before you begin to actually write your story/novel/script. It’s what will define the characters in your work as well as their actions and how they enable your narrative to progress further…or maybe even decline marginally.
- Creating a template not only makes your job as a creator easier but also creates real, believable characters whom your audience can relate to, connect with, and fall in and out of love with.
- In order to become better storytellers, you need to be one with your character (sorry, if I sounded like Master Oogway there. Martial arts and character building must be related in some way, I suppose)
- Character templates are important in order to paint a comprehensive and detailed picture of your character, and through it, their personal quirks and what makes them human (their mistakes, flaws, etc) only grow clearer.
- Character templates enable authors to maintain consistency in their details. It’s not a Tommy Wiseau movie, so you can’t be jump-cutting and skipping details everywhere….oh hi Mark (sorry about the constant movie reference detours. It’s just how my personality is naturally)
- It helps create a life-like character with a rich history or a dark past or loads of personality or loads of emotional baggage.
- Creates an immersive experience for readers to… Well, immerse themselves in, of course!
How to create a character template?
- Use a premade template like the free character profile template we have made in our tools section.
- Start with an outline or a mind map of the journey that your character will undertake. The full character bio is sketched out only after creating an outline.
- Brainstorm some vital and even not so vital characteristics of your character and try to see if you can relate them to your plot or even the skeleton of your plot in one way or another.
- Practice writing about your characters till you know every inch of them and feel related to them like you do to your own family (unless you’ve been disowned. In that case, till you feel related to your closest possible ancestor/friend/person who tolerates you in their life).
- Make a character questionnaire that you can fill in and include everything from their personal details to their mental health history.
- Focus on minute details but don’t give out any major details either. Keep the audience guessing.
- ‘Interview’ your character to build perspective. Only you can understand their mindset or viewpoint better than anybody else.
- Writing exercises can also help in ‘getting to know your character’ better and then allowing your readers to also get a better understanding of them.
- Once you’ve finished all these steps, you are ready to jump right in and create that first draft. Or if you’re going to be that person, you’re ready to create your entire novel/franchise. But seriously though, don’t skip out on that first draft (there’s more writing tips on this subject in our other blog posts where you can find out the consequences of skipping out leg day… Sorry, my bad, I meant, ahem, skipping out the first draft.)
What to fill out in the character template questionnaire?
- What is your character’s name (full, last, middle, nickname)?
- Where were they born? When were they born? Who were they born to? Or maybe they’re adopted?
- What’s their role in the story? Are they the lead, or are they a side character?
- What’s their ethnicity? Are they proud of it or ridiculed/accepted for it? The same questions apply to their sexuality.
- What accent or dialogue or language do they speak in, know or prefer?
- What type of voice do they speak in?
- What are some key mannerisms, speech patterns or impediments, and phrases or cuss words that make them unique? In simpler terms, what are their quirks?
- Their body shape, size, etc
- Their eye color, shape, size, etc
- Their hairstyle, cut, color, etc (don’t be shy to throw in some love for the alopecia community in there. Which could use with some representation. After all, why should the hairy ones have all the fun, eh? )
- Do they have tattoos, or are their parents the strict conservative kind who’d throw them out on the street if they dared to get one? Do they have any scars or birthmarks?
- Do they have a special accessory or piece of heirloom jewelry?
- Is there a doppelganger out there they do not know about? (This could make for a wicked twist or even a fun running gag, á la the doppelganger gag from How I Met Your Mother or Phoebe Buffay having an evil twin sister in FRIENDS)
- Don’t forget to add interesting physical or other character quirks! To get more ideas check out our blog about character quirks here!
- What’s their favorite scary movie! Kidding. But it’d be great if we knew what some of your character’s likes, dislikes, pet peeves, hobbies, and whatnot.
- Do they have a job or two? Are they interning or working towards a goal that could change their life?
- What do they do for leisure?
- What does their house look like?
- What model of car do they have or are looking to buy once the economy settles? (See how specific I got there for a minute…)
- Do they have roommates, or do they live alone? Maybe they’re polygamous…(hey, no judgment)
- Are they a gym freak?
- Are they a morning person or night owl?
- What’s their definition of a perfect day?
- Are they addicted to work? Or do they like long walks on the beach, Pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain?
Motivations and beliefs
- What are their religious beliefs?
- Are they into black cats and Voodoo dolls (to put it in non Ricky Martin terms, are they superstitious)?
- What is their political inclination? Do they also hate putting pandering politicians on a pedestal…or is that just a ‘me thing’?
- Are they an optimist or pessimist or super into leading others down a path of toxic positivity like some self-proclaimed lifestyle guru/influencer?
- Are they messy or organized?
- Are they old-fashioned/narrow-minded or open to anything and everything?
- Are they creative and productive or do they prefer to procrastinate?
That’s it for today. I hope that this post gave you loads of food for thought. And remember that the questions for the above questionnaire are endless. You may even come up with a few questions that I’ve missed out on after you’ve finished writing an outline, and you can jot down those as well. I’ve to take your leave now, but I hope you do share these grains of wisdom with a fellow literature aficionado and/or struggling writer. Ciao and until next time!