A character profile is a breakdown of each central character that you can refer back to when writing your screenplay. While making a character profile is not essential, you may find that by taking the time to analyze each character, you will find it easier to write about them effectively.
Below you can also download a free character profile template.
Character Profile Breakdown Template
1. What is a Character Profile?
A character profile (aka character biography) can be used by both novelists and screenwriters. It maps out details on your character’s life, appearance, and personality. By doing this, you can use this profile as a reference throughout the writing process.
Additionally, it helps you keep your characters consistent. For example, if your protagonist speaks with a particular accent, their dialogue shouldn’t change unintentionally halfway through the story.
Writing multi-dimensional, relatable characters who have compelling arcs is complicated. It can be challenging to keep track of personality traits. And this is especially true if you have a story with many different characters, such as a TV series. So although profiles might not be a great starting point for every writer, they can be beneficial.
The details you include on a character profile template can be as straightforward or as in-depth as you need them to be. Typically, they include personal information on appearance and personality. From there you can flesh out your character with notes on strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. Depending on the story, you might wish to include a complete back story.
Furthermore, as a writer, if you flesh out your characters, there is less chance of the producer/director making dramatic story changes. The next section lists all of the elements you could include on your profile.
2. Creating a Character Profile
As mentioned, you can decide for yourself how detailed you want your character profile to be. You also don’t need to write a profile for every character, just the main protagonists. Screenwriters create profiles in early script development, but you can create a profile at any stage before production.
The elements of a typical character profile are listed below. However, you can include your own sections if needed. For example, in a fantasy, you might have an area for magical abilities.
What to include on your character profile –
Basic Details – This is a general guide with details on the character: name, age, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth, and nationality. Additional information could be: their marital status, current residence, occupation, income level, education level, family, and talents.
Physical Appearance – What does your character look like: including race, height, weight, hair color, and eye color. Additional details could be: if they wear glasses, have tattoos, do they smoke, are they healthy, or do they have a disability. You could also go into detail on how they dress and if they carry any props with them (for example, Sherlock Holmes carries a pipe).
Personality/Communication – This section is for how your character comes across others and their relationships. How do they behave around other people, are they introverted or extroverted, are they shy or confident. Additional notes could be listed on: their speech patterns/accent, are they polite or rude, hero or villain.
Inner Psyche – How your character seems on the outside does not always reflect their inner mind. This section is for more in-depth details regarding their: consciousness, emotions, ambitions, hopes, and dreams. Additional information could be on: their life goals, are they religious/spiritual, what feelings does your character carry around with them.
Advanced Details – Depending on your story/genre, you can go into more detail on your character and the world they live within. And this could mean giving them a full family backstory, a breakdown of their work environment, or culture.
3. Using a Character Profile
As a screenwriter, you can use your profiles to help you remember personality traits and characteristics throughout the writing process. Writers will keep them close by so that they can refer to them when needed. And although writers primarily use profiles, other crew members might also find them helpful.
For some genres, such as fantasy and animation, profile templates are useful in development. A director can take advantage of a profile description to keep all the visual departments on the same page. For example, how a character dresses and what props they carry.
Additionally, a producer can provide a casting director with profiles to help them with auditions. A casting director will also write up profiles for every lead as well as supporting roles. If you are an independent filmmaker, it might be easier to use the same profiles throughout development and pre-production.
Actors and agents sometimes ask for breakdowns of characters. And this can be especially helpful when convincing an actor that a role is worth their time. You are also more likely to get a good actor onto a project if their role has depth, backstory, and detail.
We hope this article has helped you understand how to use a character profile template. This is a step many writers skip because it is not crucial to scriptwriting. However, profiles can be very helpful for writers to keep track of a character’s progress. So, next time you are struggling to remember what color your protagonist’s eyes are, consider writing up a character profile.
How will you be using a character profile on your next film project?
Be sure to grab this awesome free character profile template using this form below:
Character Profile Breakdown Template