It was really hard to do complete profiles of characters in 250 words. Here's what I submitted.
Anne Powell is 52 years old, 5’8” tall and of average build. Her light brown hair is beginning to welcome some gray strands to the mix and she considers her forming wrinkles badges of honor for a life well lived. Her grey eyes often look blue or green depending on what color she wears but they are always expressive despite her otherwise poker face. She walks two miles daily weather permitting. She’s frugally stylish.
Anne never married although she came close 4 different times. Her commitment issues stem from her parents nasty divorce during her childhood. She was a shy child and is still somewhat reserved until you get to know her. Her wicked sense of humor and frustrated desire to be an actress make her fun to be around and she has many friends and acquaintances.
Anne is quietly intelligent and despite her master’s degree, a battle with cancer caused her to rethink her priorities and she is now the executive assistant to the president of a large real estate company owned by a private family. She takes no crap from anyone but, because of her background in psychology, she is the office mother.
She has owned a fixer home for 12 years and lives comfortably with her semi-spoiled dog Belle. She is aggressively saving for her retirement and is financially sound. She is active in a local social organization and never bored. Anne is a natural leader although a somewhat reluctant one and she values her privacy.
Tim Gardner is 55, 6’0 tall and has a few extra pounds. His once dark brown hair is now mostly grey and his blue eyes sparkle with mischief. Thanks to his sisters and daughter he dresses well but usually exercise is walking to the mailbox or changing TV without the remote.
He’s outgoing and charming but his two divorces have made him wary of relationships so he spends his free time with friends and family including his son, two daughters and three grandchildren who think he’s God. Occasionally he forgets his age and decreased fitness by participating in football and soccer games after which heating pads and ibuprofen are required.
Tim has been a detective with the local police for 30 years – his first job out of college. He is serious and meticulous in what he does and has a reputation as a tough person to fool. The town of 50,000 doesn’t provide much opportunity to test his skills, but he enjoys his work.
Tim lives in a condo purchased 10 years ago after his last divorce. A maid service cleans every two weeks and little is done in between except loading the dishwasher. He usually eats out and his three sisters take turns doing his laundry. He could do it himself, but the system is working for him and so he takes advantage of it. Tim is involved in a local social organization and occasionally feels bored and restless.
Here's what my instructor said:
The purpose of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to think about how it is that characters are created so as to engage readers in their adventures. Readers are not interested in bland characters, so you want to try to come up with both external and internal traits that will cause readers to find them fascinating.
You’ve used some vivid details to describe Anne Powell; light brown hair with a little gray, grey eyes, walks two miles per day, stylish. She has never married but is she dating anyone? I’m wondering about her background in psychology, why with that, she ended up president of a real estate company. I’m not finding much in this profile that is really grabbing me. I’m not sure if you saw the three things in Lecture Hall that I’d be looking for in your profiles because I’m not seeing them here. Readers connect with characters who want something—desperately. What is it that Anne wants? Another thing readers connect with is a character’s fears—what does Anne most fear? Go underneath Anne’s surface—what’s there? The quirks, the passions, the longings, the dreams. What will make Anne memorable to the reader? You want to create a character your reader won’t forget.
I feel the same way about Tim—that he needs something to take him over the top and make him interesting. It’s up to you as the writer to find the traits in each of your characters that will bring your reader in and make her care about what concerns your characters in their stories. When you think about Tim’s appearance, can you give him something noticeable? A birth mark, scar, tattoo that will cause the reader to recognize him? What was outrageous about either of his divorces? What’s different about Tim as a detective? And I want you to ponder the same three questions that I asked you about Anne; what does Tim want—desperately? What is Tim’s biggest fear—both external and internal? What will make Tim memorable? Why are we going to care about this character?
She's right about all this, but how do you do it in only 250 words? I'm a little frustrated right now.