1. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    1 page Character Bios?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Fullmetal Xeno, Aug 9, 2011.

    I don't know about you guys, but when i make characters i usually only write a 1 page bio about them. I feel like once i finished each Character's page, i will have them developed enough for me to write my story. It might not be enough for some, but i wonder if there's other writers who don't need alot to know your character inside and out.
     
  2. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen Member

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    While I have written bios, and I see their potential value, I've never written a story with any of those characters. I've also never written a novel, so maybe I would need that sort of detail for something longer than a short story, but so far I haven't.
     
  3. walshy12238
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    walshy12238 Senior Member

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    I usually do that as well, but I never actually end up getting anywhere with the stories I use them in.
    I don't think that's because of me actually fleshing things out, just that I don't like the plot enough to stick with it
     
  4. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    I use character bios but I don't try to limit them to a page. I put anything I find useful in them. For a novel it might not be all that necessary but when writing a series I would imagine the benefit of all that information would really help out in the end
     
  5. Kseniya
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    Kseniya New Member

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    I used bios retroactively, and even then I'm not as diligent about it as I should be. I need no bio to get started. The process of writing a scene with a character and their thinking and flashbacks becomes a scene in the novel around which tendrils and rootes develop. I do need those character sheets when the novel becomes complicated and I need to go back and denude facts about a character so they are all in one place and I have a point of reference.

    Having said that, I also keep a timeline of events in different people's lives and subplots. That's a lot more useful to me.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never write bios... I just make a point of knowing who my characters are. I hold at least half the biographical info you might need in the back of my mind anyway... I just need to write a character down on the page once as a single name and then I know enough about them. I haven't written bios since I was a kid and made long lists of characters with no where to go. Maybe all that practice means that now I can make characters without needing to do the writing down part. :p

    Even most of the way through a novel I won't get confused about who people are because, well... I never mix up my friends. :p
     
  7. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    My creative writing is a new thing for me. In real life I develop software. I've been struck by the amazing similarity between the two activities.

    It is possible to build small programs by just sitting down with an idea and hacking away for a while. This works if you are the only developer and if you are willing to revise extensively as you work (called "refactoring" in the software development business).

    Large programs, on the other hand, require considerable up front planning if they have any chance of being successful. It's the same with the design of large physical objects. It's not humanly possible to hack together a fighter jet no matter how good an engineer you might be.

    Anyway when I started my current writing project I had an idea that excited me and a general notion of plot and characters. Based on that alone I started writing, letting the details unfold as I went. This has worked fine so far. Yet I quickly realized that from a software development point of view that's a very "hackish" approach. Really I should have created character bios, written a back story, sketched out the plot, etc, etc, all before digging into the writing itself. In other words I should have done some up front planning. I should have designed the story.

    The largest software projects are written by hundreds of people working together under a common architecture. I don't know if there are any works of fiction that are created that way. I've never heard of that. If such works are ever created character bios and other "design artifacts" will be essential or else there would be chaos in the result.
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't plan my characters on paper before I write about them; I develop them in my head until I'm ready to write their story. The most I've ever written is a 100 word summary about each character's role - and that was for a friend's benefit rather than my own.

    I write large outlines, approx. 20~36k per novel, and find that the characters feel much more realistic and natural when they're developed mentally while I work through the planning stage -- it takes me 2~3 months to get an outline to a standard where I feel I'm ready to begin work on the first draft -- rather than when I've tried to plan them on paper by filling out character sheets/profiles.
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Individual novels don't, but genres do. If you look at the history of, say, the fantasy genre, you can see them all building off each other until they've built the framework that most people use for writing fantasy nowadays. /offtopic
     
  10. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never do that at all. I just write and develop my characters as I go along.
     
  11. animefans12
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    animefans12 Member

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    I do make bios for my characters, but it's only reference for my character's personality. So it helps me a bit with my story, but I don't plan on putting it in my story officially.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Waste of time. The story or stories the character appears in ARE the character's biography.
     
  13. Mikeyface
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    Mikeyface Member

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    That's a bit harsh. Not everyone writes like that, and having worked out details of who that character was before the novel started can lead to better consistency.

    To each their own, but I personally work out the characters on (literal) paper before jumping in too far. It can be helpful depending on the type of story, etc. This is more for the character traits I feel are important for the story, with a few tidbits about past experiences thrown in. It helps solve internal debate if I can refer back to a set of guidelines on a given conflict, how would they react? Double-check that I'm working within my own universe, so reactions and dialog feel within the character's reach.

    I also write down simple phrases or words that would be in that character's wheel house so the dialog can be defined from one-another without the use of "so and so said" every single time.
     
  14. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    So posting character bios serves no purpose before writing the story? Writers might need a little room to know a little it of information about the character. But then again, jumping right into the story without writing a bio up front is not a bad idea.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly. Just like meeting a person for the first time, you get to know your characters through your interactions with them. Do you need a resume from eveyone before you get to know them?
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm inclined to agree with Cogito. I get a general idea of a character, and then he becomes complete as I write his story. I only really know my character after I've written his story. But once his story is written, I don't need a bio for him, so, yeah, I find it a waste of time.

    @PeterC: I, too, am an engineer, and I have also written a lot of software. I don't think that writing a novel (or even a series of novels) is much like developing a large software project. A great many series of novels have been written by one author each, and, in many cases, without a whole lot of preplanning. The requirements of functionality in software development are very much stricter than those of fiction writing, allowing a fiction writer a lot more room to play.

    As far as works of fiction created by hundreds of people, you could probably look to the development of comic-book universes, such as the Marvel or DC universes. Or young-adult series like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, etc., in which many writers contributed using one house pen name. Probably the biggest example is the German sci-fi series Perry Rhodan. Wiki it, just for fun!
     
  17. frostedfields
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    frostedfields Member

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    I use them sometimes and use as many pages as I need. For longer works I write bios for the major characters for a couple of reasons:
    1) To make consistent references to his/her past
    2) To create a timeline of his/her life (for one character, this became essential)
    3) To develop his/her personality and keep descriptions consistent
    4) Other miscellaneous reasons

    By developing the characters I might get an idea to improve the plot, include a great quote down the line, see personality conflicts, etc. It's a brain busting exercise for me.
     
  18. Kseniya
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    Kseniya New Member

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    I'm also an engineer and I don't think writing is at all like engineering. I wouldn't want it to be! It's an organic process. Editing, on the other hand! That is very structured. However characters are created - whether grown or planned, the editing process need to verify consistency of timeline, logic and personality. If someone where to keep track of this stuff in some condensed format, I can see how it would help them avoid mistakes and re-writes, and make the editing process easier. For me, a little of that is a good idea now that my novel is over 130,000 words. When I spend too much time plotting and outlining, though, I get bored and walk away from tthe writing table. That's monumentally counterproductive!
     
  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree with you guys, that is the way I work too.
     
  20. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't dedicate a whole page to each character, but I like to write down what the character looks like and dates of important events so that I don't forget stuff. My stories almost always have a large cast of characters, and I need a little organization to keep my head from cluttering up. I don't bother if the story only have one or two important people in it though (but that's rare).
     
  21. SeverinR
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    When I started I would make notes about the bio as I went. If I said he liked horses I wanted to make sure he still likes horses 8 chapters later. More importantly the small things that I would write, just in case I refered back again.

    My most recent I wrote out her Bio before I started. About the same time I was thinking of the story framework. This way I have history that I can slip into every day situations.

    When or if you need one depends on how good your memory is, I forget some small things. But when you have 10 novels in various stages it gets hard to remember.
    You don't want to contradict what you wrote earlier.
     
  22. andrewjeddy
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    andrewjeddy Member

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    I do not use bios. I make a point of knowing who my character is. Who they are. Why they do what they do. I will sometimes write down notes but I usually do that mid story. The only thing I determine before starting a story is their attitude toward life- are they morose and stoic, cheerful and improvident, or eccentric and annoying. Knowing this allows me to determine what they will do -or say- in a given situation. Everything else about them comes out as I write.
     
  23. nchahine
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    nchahine Member

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    If it's character I'm going to use in a story, I always write a bio, but I don't limit it to a certain number of pages. The usual things I keep track of are: back history, goals, habits, likes/dislikes, personality traits, and anything else I deem will be important to the story.

    I heard a lot of writers use the character chart, also. I notice that if I don't know and understand my character inside out, then s/he can start acting in weird ways that doesn't really gel with their previous behavior.
     
  24. Saffron
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    I usually have one all-encompassing 'Outline' document and within that there will be short character descriptions - usually just three or four sentences on where they live, which other characters they're related to (if any), what they look like, and their situation at the beginning of the story.

    Personalities and likes/dislikes usually come through during the actual writing.
     
  25. westofthemoon
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    westofthemoon Member

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    I like to do the same thing.

    Has anyone ever read "The Art of Dramatic Writing: its basis in the creative interpretation of human motives" by Lajos Egri? It's geared to writers who are trying to write a play, but the principles apply to any type of writing if what you're writing is character-driven. Egri basically believes that you have to know why a person (character) is the way he/she is in order to know why he/she acts/reacts the way he/she does (plot). Wow, that sounds confusing. Anyway, he writes that it is important to know a character three-dimensionally: namely their physiology, sociology, and psychology (which is a product of the former two). A beautiful, healthy, tall man who was born with the aid of a midwife in his widowed mother's mansion with a superior attitude is going to react differently to certain situations than, say, a stooped old man whose mother had him in the derelict house she was squatting in, and who is now wasting away from terminal cancer and resigned outlook on life.

    As Ibsen put it:

    "When I am writing I must be alone; if I have eight characters of a drama to do with I have society enough; they keep me busy; I must learn to know them. And this process of making their acquaintance is slow and painful. I make, as a rule, three casts of my dramas, which differ considerably from each other. I mean in characteristics, not in the course of the treatment. When I first settle down to work out my material, I feel as if I have to get to know my characters on a railway journey; the first acquaintance is struck up, and we have chatted about this and that. When I write it down again, I already see everything much more clearly, and I know the people as if I had stayed with them for a month at a watering place. I have grasped the leading points of their characters and their little peculiarities."

    I know not everyone works this way, but Egri really helped me out!
     

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