Business Writing 2017-08-02 00:00

How to Create a CV like Elon Musk's for Your Protagonist

A professional CV writer recently created an amazing CV for Elon Musk. It is an incredibly concise one-page distillation of his entire professional life and skill base. You come away from that single page with a pretty good sense of who he is.

Every character you write needs to have a CV like this. And if you're trying to figure out, to the molecule, what makes your protagonist tick, you probably need something even more detailed.

Most writers know their protagonist inside and out. They fill up our minds with their endless chatter, vying for our attention when we're trying to focus on something else. Pesky little buggers.

But how many times in the middle of writing your novel have you forgotten a detail about your protagonist's background or a subtle personality attribute? If you haven't written down your all of your ideas about your protagonist, that little tidbit may be gone forever.

  1. Fill out a detailed CV on your protagonist
  2. The best examples out there
  3. Final thoughts

Fill out a detailed CV on your protagonist

A CV is a tool to capture all of your thoughts about your main character and keep track of the many idiosyncrasies and character traits. Just as important, it helps you capture and record the intertwined relationships of all the characters in your novel. Especially if you use several points of view or have multiple main characters: you need to capture them each distinctly.

No matter what genre you write in, you'll need a CV on your main characters. Some genres may call for additional sections, like fantasy novels where you need to keep track of magical abilities, hexes, and spells. You may actually capture something in your CV that never sees the light of day in your novel, but it still colors everything you write about your protagonist.

Your CVs are also great places to jot notes as your character grows and changes during your story. And if you change a characteristic about your protagonist between Draft #1 and Draft #2, capture it in your character's CV to help you as you rewrite your next draft.

The best examples out there

Two of the best examples found on the internet are:

No. 1: How to Create a Character Profile on Writers Write

The Lazy Scholar's Character Profile Worksheet covers everything:

  • Basic stats like name, age, birth order, siblings, spouse, etc.
  • A multitude of physical, emotional, and spiritual characteristics
  • Intellectual, mental, and personality attributes and attitudes
  • Relationships and how they change over the course of the novel

No. 2: Character Development Questions—Source unknown

I found this list of character development questions on Facebook years and years ago. So long ago that I can't remember which writing organization posted it. (If you recognize it and know who it belongs to, please let me know in the comments below.)

I'm posting it here in its entirety because it's just so good.

Final thoughts

An easy way to get started on your protagonist's CV is to use the one that's included with your favorite writing software. Most programs have a template to capture basic information about your characters. But it will help immensely if you go deeper using the two resources from above.

If you're a planner, filling out a CV will tickle your fancy. If you're a seat-of-the-pants-er, you'll probably balk, but I guarantee you'll thank me later when you're trying to remember if your character's lightning-shaped scar is over his right or left eye.

Let's get our own Character CV Template going. Let us know in the comments below what information you capture about your characters. If we get enough responses, we'll pull together a worksheet and post it here for download.

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