Do you have a resume?

Character Bio's are important.

You have to know your character before you can write them. If you don't you'll end up writing a flat, cookie-cutter, person. You don't want that, do you?

Of course not!

So, how do we get to know these fictional characters we just pulled out of thin air?

We give them a life and history all their own.

And the simplest way to do this is to give them a resume. Pretend they are sitting down in front of you, applying to be a character in your story.

Start with the basics. (beyond the image stuff, which I assume you have already come up with; hair color, eye color, skin color, height, etc...)

What is their full name?
How old are they?
Where do they live?
How long have they lived there?
Did they ever attend school? If so, where? (I write vampires, so school could mean listening to the great Socrates, discus philosophy back in the A.D. days)
Any specialized degrees?
Previous work history? (the jobs we do help to shape us as much as our education. Did your character have to work some menial job they hated? Were they some high powered executive? For fantasy stories, rulers of Kingdoms and peasants count as well)

Now, once you have the basics out of the way. Ask your "applicant", what qualifies them to be a character in your story?

Are they applying for a main character or a secondary character position?
What special powers and/or abilities do they posses?
Ask them to list one good and one bad quality about themselves.

And finally, your character needs to provide references! What kind of friends do they have? What is their family like? Do they have any enemies that they wouldn't want listed on a resume? List a few of those people in their life, both good and bad.

If you (or your character) can answer all of these questions, you will be off to a great start. The goal is to have a character that not only feels real to you, but reads as a real person to your audience.

A background and history help to create that "real" feeling.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great idea - I haven't thought of doing this! Thanks for the great post. :-)

Theresa Milstein said...

I recently saw a post where it was recommended that writers list fifty things about their characters. This does the same thing in a more creative and fun way. "Hobbies" "Residence" "Previous Employment" "Honors and Awards" "References" break it down so it's more managable. As for physical description, the writer can pretend that a driver's license is included, if they characters are old enough to have one and there are cars in their world.

L.T. Elliot said...

I love making character bios. It's fun to get to know them better. =]

ElanaJ said...

I'm on the other side of the fence. I HATE making character bios. I hate interviewing them. I just sit down and spew it out. And about halfway through my book, I realize the person I've been writing is finally formed. Then I have a lot of work to do to fix up the beginning of my books. But it's the only thing that works for me -- and I've tried the other way, believe me. ;)

dirtywhitecandy said...

I find it's always good to think about the things the character would rather NOT put on their CV. The secrets, the phobias, the times they behaved badly...

Angie said...

That's a good idea. I have a character profile sheet with a whole bunch of questions to answer when creating characters. It has been helpful, but I do find my characters will change from what I thought they were in unexpected ways.

Jessica said...

Whoa, do I have to write that all down??? LOL!!! I'm the writer who prefers to just write and figure out the character as I go. That, however, has some huge drawbacks and sometimes I end up with underdeveloped characters.

Susan R. Mills said...

My characters always seem real to me, but I'm not sure how they come across to my readers. I'll think about trying this resume thing. Great post.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That's a unique idea. I like having a very good idea who my characters are before I start, then let them develop further as I write. You also need to find out what their values and motivations are. Then you'll have a better idea how they will respond in given situations.

Natalie said...

I'm thinking I need to go back and do this for my current WIP. While I love my MC, I'm worried a few of my side characters are kind of flat.

The Rejection Queen said...

I love your blog. I hope 2010 is your year!

Anna C. Morrison said...

AWESOME idea!!!!!! I do little interviews, but this is much more practical and complete. Kudos to you!

Guinevere said...

This idea is too cute and fun! I'm going to have to give it a try.

quixotic said...

Glad you guys like it. It's a fun way to get to know your character!