In this video, I explain how to construct the characters and setting for your book, and we meet Beowulf the pug, my (allegedly) adorable co-host.
Step 4. Character Profiles
Step 5. Story Bible
Transcription of Episode 4:
LEO (previous episode): “If we created backstories for every villain ever created . . .”
LEO (present): I don’t see the problem.
BEOWULF: Really? You didn’t notice any problems?
BEOWULF: You said “created” twice in the same sentence.
BEOWULF: You got to do better than that.
LEO: I’m doing just fine. My subscriber count even doubled this past month.
BEOWULF: Wow, two whole subscribers. Very impressive.
LEO: Oh piss off!
LEO: The last time we touched on the writing and self-publishing process, we covered plotting through the first three steps, those being to decide if you’re even a plotter at all, brainstorming ideas to flesh out your narrative, and outlining your story. In this episode, I’ll break down the steps to construct your characters and your setting. Some people prefer to work on the characters and setting before the plot, but this is ill-advised. It’s a lot easier to build your characters and your setting around a plot, hence why I put these steps after brainstorming and outlining. Jenna Moreci, one of the authors I follow on YouTube, provided an excellent analogy for this in one of her videos, linked in the description:
JENNA: “Think of the plot of your novel as a tree, and the characters, descriptions, locations, and so on as the Christmas ornaments. The ornaments improve upon the Christmas tree, but it’s not a Christmas tree without the tree. You kinda need the tree first, or else you’re just gonna have a pile of broken glass and glitter on the floor.”
LEO: As a side note, the video I just quoted is a more streamlined and simplified summary of the writing and self-publishing process. I recommend you watch it, because my series on this topic is way more detailed and convoluted, and Jenna’s overview is a lot less daunting and will help prepare you guys for what’s to come later in my videos. I also recommend you watch . . . well, ALL of Jenna’s videos. Like seriously, binge watch her entire channel when you get the chance. She’s an awesome content creator, and her videos on writing are just as entertaining as they are informative.
Step 4. Character Profiles
LEO: Characters are the most critical part of your novel. A great cast of characters can save any story, even if the plot is boring, confusing, or batshit insane. Thing is, it’s challenging to write engaging, well-rounded characters if you don’t know them inside and out beforehand. If you start writing your story without getting to know your characters first, then you have to create their personalities and backstories on the fly, and this can lead to characterizations that are flat, unconvincing, and inconsistent. This is where character profiles come in handy. A character profile is an organizational tool to help you flesh out your character’s personality, goals, relationships, and all the nitty-gritty details that make a character feel three-dimensional and alive. Different writers tailor their character profiles to suit their own needs, but most templates I’ve seen cover basic info like age and gender, physical appearance, family and friends, romantic experience, psychology, strengths and weaknesses, skills, and flaws. These items need to relate to each other in a way that makes sense. If one section says your character is a couch potato, but the section on physical appearance says he’s ripped like a lumberjack, you need to fix that inconsistency. Since I’m rebooting my first book, I’ve begun to write profiles for my characters using Jenna Moreci’s template. I’ll link her video on character profiles and the sample profile she posted on her blog for her main character, Tobias. I’ll also link the profile for Ezekiel Blake, the main character of my novel. You should search around the internet and take a look at other profile templates because there might be a template that works better for you than the one I use. You should create profiles for your main characters, your main villains, and any supporting characters who have significant, recurring roles in the plot. When creating a character profile for a villain, explain that character’s reasons and rationalization for being a villain. None of that lazy “he’s evil just because evil.” Keep in mind, you don’t have to create profiles for every single character. It’s okay to have flat minor characters if they only appear briefly in a few scenes or are unnamed background characters. No one cares that Red Shirt #4 had a dream of someday becoming a famous Broadway singer. You’ll have to decide for yourself which of your characters need profiles and how in-depth each profile should be.
Step 5. Story Bible
LEO: A story bible is a reference guide of your novel’s vital facts, including character info, setting, history, geography, ecology, and terminology, all kept in an easy to navigate manual. Story bibles are fundamental tools for worldbuilding, which is the construction of coherent fictional worlds and their components. The amount of worldbuilding you do will depend somewhat on your genre. If your book is high fantasy, for example, you would be creating an entire fictional world from the ground up. If your story is set on Earth through contemporary fiction or historical fiction, you still have to research the real world in order to use it as a setting for your novel, especially if your story takes place in a different place, culture, or time period. Whether you’re constructing a world, or using the real world, you got some work ahead of you. The amount of work will depend on the scale of your setting. If your novel is an epic journey through various lands and countries, that’s a lot of worldbuilding and research to do. If your book only takes place in one secluded location, you should focus mainly on that one location until you decide that your characters have to go somewhere else. For those of you who hate the idea of doing ANY worldbuilding or ANY research, I don’t know what to tell you. I guess there’s always the autobiography route. I myself enjoy worldbuilding, but not so much that I have to create an entire planet and every civilization on said planet. That’s why I prefer to write urban fantasy. I can build the fantasy elements, then fill in the rest of my setting by researching the real world. It’s up to you how much information you put into your story bible, but I would recommend that you do your best not to go overboard. Otherwise, you’ll end up so preoccupied with your story bible that you’ll never write your actual novel.
BEOWULF: Speaking from personal experience?
LEO: Obviously, you’ll need to flesh out some details of your setting beforehand, but don’t get so caught up in the worldbuilding and research that you never start your novel. Look at your story bible as just a glorified notebook. Prioritize things that you’re likely to forget but NEED to know for later. All righty then. You have your plot outlined, your characters profiled, and you built the foundations of your setting. We’ll return to the writing and self-publishing process in Episode 6. But before then, join me for Episode 5 where I’ll introduce you all to my protagonist, Ezekiel Blake.
SAMPLE CHARACTER PROFILES:
Moreci, Jenna. “Character Profile: Tobias.” Count Blogula, Tumblr, 12 May 2016.
Featherstone, Leo. “Character Profile: Ezekiel Blake.” Leo Featherstone, Blogger, 26 Sept. 2018.
Featherstone, Leo. “Character Profile: Angela Floure Thorn.” Leo Featherstone, Blogger, 22 Oct. 2018.
“How to Write and Publish a Book - a Step-By-Step Guide.” YouTube, uploaded by Jenna Moreci, 29 Nov 2017.
“How to Create a Character Profile.” YouTube, uploaded by Jenna Moreci, 11 May 2016.
“How Worldbuilding Begins — Worldbuilding Series.” YouTube, uploaded by Tale Foundry, 18 Aug 2018.
“3 Worldbuilding Methods to Improve Your Craft — Worldbuilding Series.” YouTube, uploaded by Tale Foundry, 3 Oct 2018.