1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How do you do character bios?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Link the Writer, Oct 20, 2009.

    I'm just curious as to how you do character bios, which ones you find the most easiest.

    Because I like to put EVERYTHING down, I was thinking of doing my character bios kinda like how a wikipedia article is set up where everything's divided into sections. (I hesitate to search images for real-life people that closely resemble my characters as I imagine them, though. You know, like how a wikipedia article on...Jefferson would have his picture in the top right corner?)

    Anyways, I've heard that other people do it chart-wise, like
    Name:
    Age:
    Sex:
    Gender:
    Hair color:
    etc:

    So, how do you do your character bios?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't. Oh, I might have a few random notes for facts that are easily forgotten or hard to find in the test, mixed in with other miscellaneous story notes, but everything I need to know about my character is in the manuscript, or in my head.
     
  3. Lydia
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    Lydia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't always do it, but when I do, yeah, it's a bit chart-wise with name, age, haircolour, interest, etc.

    I have actually done that, looked for pictures of people that matched the discription of my character. But that was only a one time thing, and I prefer to have them look how I see them in my head, and no other way.
     
  4. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    I don't do bio's either. I find them difficult. I have tried to before.. but it was all kinda pointless for me - When I have a mc that I need all that info about, it all comes to me, and is in my head as background knowledge. I know my characters personally, like I have met them. But I haven't - I don't do the interviews either - the idea of interviewing an imaginary character interferes with my imagination so much that nothing comes when I try and picture it.
    After all, if I couldn't remember all the relevant information about my character, how could I expect my reader to?
    And how would I be able to decide, on the fly as my story goes along, what happens next? With creative juices flowing, I am not gonna wanna stop and look at a bio to decide how the character would react to different situations. For me, that is stuff you need to just know, off-hand. Part of immersing yourself in your story, and in your characters.
     
  5. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm like Cog when it comes to my character profiling. If I create some sort of bio for them in a separate document, it tends to be after their creation and after they've been on the page for some time, simply to stop me from forgetting certain details about them.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't do character bios.

    Not in the strict sense, anyway.

    When my characters present themselves, they do have some background that is germane to the story. Other things about themselves get presented as the writing goes on. I tried doing the whole flash card with little lists of data about each character dealie, but it just felt silly and never got used. Ever.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The bios start seeming really silly when you get to know your characters. Why would you have to have a note to tell you their gender? Was that their age at the beginning of the story, or during the peak of the action? What is her hair color today?

    So much can and will change over the course of the story, and most of what doesn't change is too obvious to bother writing down. Ok, I might forget the birthday, just like I sometimes do in real life. So that is something I might jot down someplace when I discover it.

    How many notes do you write down about your friends? Let that be your guide.
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Good point.

    I've seen people do character bios to better understand the character's backgrounds, what they're striving for, what their goals are ect.

    But yeah, the stuff like "What is their hair/eye color?" is plain silly. Unless they were a shape-shifting race, it's not needed.
     
  9. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    I used to use character bios as my primry source of info for them until quite recently. I found I could never quite remember all the facts and figures I'd stated and wound writing about blank faces and deeply dissapponting personality. It wasn't until I tried something that wasentioned by Cogito that things seemed to look up. He had suggested that all information he needed was in the story, as stated above. I found it much easier to remember things about them when I wrote it down. I have a character whose personality description is "pessimistic" which I found much easier to relate in the story by showing him being so. Needless to say the character went to a public function and really killed the mood.

    Although I still use the bios it is to a very small degree and sometimes things even come up that would never appeared in chart form.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i never do, either... follow cog's advice... it's sound... and about what i'd have said, had he not gotten here first...
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    What I find more useful than a bio is writing scenes and short stories about my characters. These scenes will not be in the novel. The short stories are just practice to get to know my characters.

    Sometimes I'll write a screenplay scene with my characters in it because the screenplay forces me to show with action their feelings, thoughts, etc. It's a good exercise.

    Try mixing old characters in with your new ones to see how they interact with each other in a scene.

    Obviously, whether people write this stuff down or not, they ask questions about their characters, or they should be.

    Where did they go to school? Private, public, homeschool?
    Where did they grow up? Slums, up town?
    How did they grow up? Gangster, preppy, goth, loner?
    Do they have a nick name? Why?
    Are they confrontasional? Do they fight back? Do they get picked on?
    What do they fear?
    What are they really good at?
    etc
     
  12. Karma Girl
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    Karma Girl Member

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    I can be anal when it comes to character bios. I'll have everything from favorite color to whether their toe nails regenerate during a full moon(don't ask). My advice would be to keep a separate notebook or pad handy while you are writing your story and write down any pertainant info that should happen to cross your mind. You don't have to keep it all, but it will help you during the rewrite process(i.e. you mention your character is terrified of the water in chapter one while in chapter ten, the same character finds him/herself splashing playfully with his many tentacled cthuluu buddy in the deep end of a public pool. Again, don't ask.)
     
  13. Mo Yeongsu
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    Mo Yeongsu Member

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    The way I see it, those sheets are better used if you need somebody else to know about the characters. Once created, any and all of your characters are usually imprinted on you and I doubt you'll forget very much. And when it comes to physical descriptions, I tend to make my stuff very vague unless there's some special trait I'd like them to have. When I read a book I enjoy putting myself or folks I know into my visualization of the character and so I like it the best when those tiny and needless details are omitted.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But why? Everything anyone else needs to know about your character is what you expose through your writing.
     
  15. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I have a booklet full of little facts about novels that I'm writing, but mostly, all my information about my characters is all over the place in my mind. If you start writing with no plan, your character will unfold before your eyes, and then you can tweak it afterwords.

    but, it's your choice, obviously. If you like the character chart or whatever its called, go for it.
     
  16. Mo Yeongsu
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    Mo Yeongsu Member

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    Honestly? No idea. It just seems that the author should know the characters inside and out and that those charts may just be for simplifying their thoughts or for asking themselves about the character. I feel like those character sheets might do an artist for the cover of a book well or a guide to the book's characters if they should obtain a substantial following.
     
  17. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    Best way to get to know anyone is to observe their reactions to their surroundings, their opinions etc. You can't do that by isolating a character into a vacuum, without any context...
     
  18. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because some people like to read the appendices.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You're going to put character sheets in an appendix?

    Okaaaay...
     
  20. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I still use character sheets for game design, but that's different as these sheets are going to other designers who are going to draw concept art, create models, etc. The other designers can't see what's in my head. Plus the bios may actually go into the game. The characters always start off one dimensional until we build their pasts and personalities around the gameplay.

    Outside of that I don't use them anymore at all for my writing. I use to, but like Cog said it's in my head, I should know my own characters.

    The only thing I will write down is the characters past or background if it's long and drawn out. Say for a character like Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne/David Web character. His past was told in pieces spread out over three books. I would definitely have to write something like that down to keep it consistent. Anything else though feels constricting and like a waste of time.
     
  21. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I'm just finishing my novel's first draft, and I tried writing detailed bio's on the characters first (although I only achieved it for two of them) ... but really the core idea of what each character was, was already in my head, and I never referred to the bio's at all. I do intend to write the bio's now, though - based on and extending the information in my first draft. The main reason to do this is to make sure I present each character in a consistent way as I do the rewrite.

    So, the way that seems a good idea to me for the moment (for my current stage of experience and my personal style) is:
    1) Write the first draft
    2) Write the character biographies - using whatever format seems to work.
    3) Do the rewrite and subsequent drafts with reference to the bio's for consistency.

    On the first draft, you want to be concentrating on discovering the story, and I don't believe it would be helpful if I had to keep referring back to the bio's as I was writing that. Also, you may find the demands of the story need your character to be a little different to how you envisaged it. Keep yourself free to go with the flow of the story during the first draft.

    Of course, this may not fit in with your personal style of working...
     
  22. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I don't do character bios. Like jwatson I have a little book for jotting down novel business.

    The one thing I am guilty of is doodling. I doodle to preserve a mood or feeling that I got surrounding a character. For example one of my characters has a page of notes surrounded by silhoetted half faces and weird shaped grins.
     

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