Character Portrait

by Nynke Passi

We discussed in class how to create a character portrait. Here some things to keep in mind:

1) Appearance:

  • How does your character look physically, color hair, color eyes, body type?
  • How does your character inhabit space (the walk exercise)? You can add a metaphor here.
  • How does your character dress?
  • Any other noticeable features in the character’s appearance?

2) Speech

  • How does your character talk? Is he/she introverted, extroverted in speaking?
  • What is the voice quality of your character like? Think of a metaphor if you can.
  • What are frequent sayings of your character–slogans, proverbs, mottos, beliefs, quotations?
  • Does your character speak in slang or have an accent?
  • Is English your character’s first language or not? If not, how does a foreign or unusual phrasing creep into your character’s speech?
  • Is your character’s way of talking funny, serious, emotional or distant, welcoming or aloof?
  • What are some repeated or favorite stories your character tells?

3) Environment

  • Where does your character live? In what kind of setting?
  • What is your character’s socio-economic class?
  • What are your character’s favorite objects?
  • What is in his or her coat pocket, pants pocket, pocket book or purse that would describe the character?
  • What world does your character come from (rich, poor, middle class, has lost everything once, has risen from poverty, is Bohemian and does not care about money, lives soberly, lives with tons of nick-nacks, etc.) Describe.
  • Is your character attached to social standing and to objects and places? If so, why?

4) Habits

  • Describe some of your character’s daily habits? How does he or she bathe, clean, do dishes, keep house, eat, or anything else that stands out?
  • Is your character frugal or free with money? What does your character spend money on? What does your character avoid to spend money on?
  • What does your character like to do for fun or comfort?
  • Any other quirky observations, mannerisms, specific ways of doing things that stand out and are unique, annoying or endearing?

5) Job and Professional Life

  • What does your character do for a living or what has your character done for a living in his/her past?
  • How did your character get his/her money?
  • Does your character like his/her employment or not?
  • Does your character have hobbies or work he/she does in his/her free time out of dedication?
  • How does your character handle  prestige, position gained through work? Or lack of position and prestige? Or loss of job, or money through inheritance but no job–or whatever your character’s situation is. Describe.
  • What is your character’s work ethic?

6) Character

  • What are your character’s moral values? What is his/her sense of right or wrong?
  • What is your character’s religious background?
  • Is your character a spiritual person? In what sense?
  • What is your character’s belief system?
  • What is truly important to your character and what does he/she value?
  • How would your character react in crisis?
  • What themes emerge in your character’s life that show who he/she truly is at heart.
  • Any contradictory traits or values?
  • Does your character have a flaw or blind spot, something he/she does not see of him or herself that gets the person in trouble?
  • How would your character describe himself and how would you describe your character, or how do others? Is there a discrepancy?
  • What was the character’s childhood like, his/her formative experiences?
  • Tell a revealing anecdote or story.

Hollie Chastain, Finkiyaya