A fellow blogger asked me for tips on writing character descriptions, since we’re both prepping for NaNo. I think they’re a great thing to do whether or not you’re involved in NaNo and it’s never too late to write one. Sometimes they’ll give you insights, even if you’re in editing mode. I’m sure everyone has their own definition of character bios, but here’s what I do with mine.
CHARACTER BIOS ARE
I don’t know what it is about first drafts, but they seem to summon the info dumps from the furthest recesses of our minds. The bonus about writing character bios? You can info dump all you want, and you SHOULD. Get that info out. Your brain will want it written down somewhere and your readers will thank you for not having it be the first insanely long paragraph of your first chapter.
So delve into that backstory. What makes your main character them? What do they fear? Motivations? Goals? What’s the best thing that can happen to them? The worst? How are they at the beginning of the story? How will they change by the end? What are some things that could happen that would create that change? Why are they the best person for this role in your story? Will they doubt themselves? Why? What’s their relationship to their family? Friends? The antagonist? Give them a reason for everything they do. They may not realize it themselves. In fact, the best characters often have hidden motives—things they don’t even realize about themselves.
You may not uncover it before you write the story, but that is what’s fabulous about a character bio. You can keep adding to it. However if you’re doing the NaNo, as much detail you can put in now will help guide you as your character comes to decisions. Yes, even you pantsers. And remember, none of this is in stone. You may decide to change motivations later on. And that’s okay. (Just remember to change prior motivations in scenes to match).
Do this for your main, secondaries, and certainly the villain. Anyone of importance will need a bio.