Since the dawn of creative writing courses the necessity of character biographies has infiltrated every nook and cranny of literary circles, and for good reason. Character biographies not only align your mind toward a singular storyline, but it reveals the history and basic information about each character. While imperative, the creation of a workable biography seems to be missing from the research pile of many writers.
A workable character biography refers to gathering and organizing specific information for quick reference during the writing process. Creation of such a document requires research on the character and her past/present/future.
While this document is not designed to be only a couple of pages, it’s length depends on how much information you deem necessary, it does organize and clarify your thoughts and ideas about each character.
Included in this section: Name, Age, Birth Date, Birth Location, Current Location, Current Living Arrangement and Education Level.
This is not a conclusive list of what to include in this section. Include whatever basic details you feel necessary to access during your writing process.
Include the following information: Mother’s Name, Father’s Name, Sibling names, Mother Hometown, Father Hometown, How Parents Met, Current Parent Relationship (Married/Separated/Divorced/Widowed), Sibling Ages, Current location of parents, Relationship Dynamic with Mother, Relationship Dynamic with Father, Relationship Dynamic with Siblings.
Include as much detail as you deem necessary. While the character outline, in all its variations, should be written at this point, feel free to import as much of that information as needed. Allow this space to describe relationship dynamics and any other vital information. Remember to be as specific as possible with details.
Describe the friends with non-family members. Include information such as: Characters’ Inner Circle (Names and a one-to-two descriptive sentence), How Character Met Closest Friends, Any Dead Friends, Dynamics With Each Close Friend and Physical Location of Friends with Character.
Describe the relationships between the character and all his friends. Again, be as descriptive as possible. I’ve used this section many times in my writing to keep track of relationship dynamics.
Explain and describe any romantic interests. Include: Romantic Relationship, Sex Life, Total Number of Sexual Partners (in character history), How Character Views Sexuality, Role of Partner/Spouse/Casual Lover has on the Character and How Character Feels about Love/Sex/Marriage.
The topic of love and sex is typically overlooked in many scripts, especially those without this element. While your story may not feature a love scene or even deal with the topic of relationships, your characters have had relationships in the past. Just as your relationships growing up and as a young adult altered and shaped you in some fashion, the same is true for the characters.
Exploring the work/career aspect of your character reveals a different side/dynamic. Clearly describe not only what the character does for work, but also how the character feels about their job. What is their dream career? Do they ever work in their dream job? What business does the character currently work at? How long has the character worked there (Starting Month & Year)? Relationship with Co-Workers and Relationship with Manager/Boss.
Three Primary Desires (Surface, Secret, Subconscious)
Explain the three primary desires that drive this character in full-detail. Surface desires are those that are the quickest to satisfy (desire to eat, immediately satisfied by visiting the kitchen). While these may feature more important actions and tasks than simply grabbing a sandwich, they’re never the true reason for desire turned into action.
Secret desires are well-known to the character, but that’s it. These are the secrets that she is ashamed of or that she simply wishes to keep to herself for whatever reason. While she would never want anyone to know these secrets, they typically weigh heavy on the decisions and actions of the character.
Subconscious desires are the strangest to cultivate. While we are unable to fully know our own subconscious desires, as writers we conjure and mold the subconscious mind of another being. Delving into these subconscious desires provides an abstract view into the inner workings of the character.