A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Today's post is about biography, specifically writing one for your characters.  This entire post may be a shock to those who have followed me from way back.  I've been a pantster from the beginning, but I've found true merit in scribbling down some form of biography for my characters.  This is especially true of my main character.

I took a writing class some time ago and one thing that stuck in my mind was the fact that my fellow students/critique partners could not really envision my MC.  This was sort of a shock to me because I "knew" what my MC looked like, what he thought, etc.  Or did I?  As I found out, I had a very minimal view of my MC and did not do a really good job of bringing him to life.

Enter this phase of my writing life and I've embraced the idea of preparation before actual writing.   Character biographies are something I believe in now and I do one for my MC, his antagonist counterpart, and any other characters I think will have larger roles than just being a placeholder on the page.  Let's face it - if I can't verbally explain who my characters are, there's no way I can put it into words on a page.

The process of going through a biography should encompass more than just name, age, and height.  You should be able to explain where this person is coming from.  What past experiences have helped shape them?  What mannerisms might they have?  What are their goals and why (even if it's bound to change over the course of the story)?  While you may not use the exact words in your biography when writing the story, this process helps solidify the character in your mind.  You don't have to "decide" how a character would react to a given situation because you've already thought through this.  You are free to just write and let the story flow - at least that's the thought behind it anyway.

When was the last time you wrote a biography for your characters?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Eric .. glad the A-Z is giving you that oomph to get back to blogging ..

I have some idea what you're describing ... but bringing it to light in a post is a good idea. Lots of authors seem to keep notes on each character, so they don't muddle them ..

I just blog! For now .. that's enough .. cheers and enjoy the A-Z - Hilary

Matt Conlon said...

You think that's what people are talking about in World of Warcraft, when they say, "quick bio"?

Damyanti said...

I make a character sheet for my characters, after the first draft is written-- writing a biography is quite another story.

Look forward to the rest of your challenge posts!
Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Sandy said...

I'm not a writer, but this sounds like very sound advice and makes perfect sense to me. I don't enjoy reading all that much...which makes me wonder if sometimes I don't know the main character and therefore can't get into it? Must pass your info onto my SIL, who is an author. She writes for children, but it still might be good info for her.


Eric said...

Matt - That's exactly the way I think of it. And for the record, I do bio's for my MMO characters too :)

Damyanti - That's an interesting way to do it. I've not heard of that approach before. I might have to consider its merits for a bit.

Sandy - Thanks, I hope my advice helps in any way. And thanks for stopping by.