Biography Sheets For Characters?

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This is a question for all the writers of fiction who follow my blog or who might read it: do you use biography sheets for characters when you are writing a novel? Using such a sheet, and filling it in with minute detail is something that I do, and something that I learned first from being an actor, when I did this exercise to help to build a character, and then as a director, when I assigned the task to actors.

I realize that I create details that I will probably never use in the actual writing of the novel, but the more I know about the characters, the more easily and effectively I can write about them and help to bring them to life.

When I mention minute detail, such an example would be answering this kind of question: does the character prefer coffee or tea, and how do they take it? Or, do they eat eggs for breakfast, and if so, what is their preferred way–perhaps over easy, scrambled, or poached.

So, I ask you–do you use character biography sheets when you build a character?

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33 thoughts on “Biography Sheets For Characters?

  1. I write flash fiction (most often at under 500 words) and I use character templates there too. Why? Because flash is so short, it has to be character led and I need to know a reasonable amount about the character before I can tell their story.

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  2. I haven’t done that specifically but often I will re-write scenes from different characters perspectives. I’ve found that it changes how I write the scene in the end once I realize how they might or might not react to what’s happening.

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  3. As an actor & a writer, I do think about the background of my characters to really delve into their mindset, but I usually don’t go into specific details like how they take their coffee. I do participate in questions posed by the writing community on Twitter that do ask for specifics about characters. I find it interesting & fun, but I’m not sure about the impact it’s had on my work yet. I would consider doing one for my next work in progress it’s worth a shot!

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  4. Yes! I started doing that when I realized, partway through writing my first novel, that I had forgotten what colour of eyes I had said the character had earlier in the book. Also, it helps to gel the character in my mind, even if I don’t use all the details of his personality or looks. I can more easily decide if he is likely to do or say the things I want him to be doing, and it helps me to shape those actions to be more believable of that character.

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  5. i have, also i use timelines – when a character is introduced and when they leave the story. this has helped me a lot.
    the novel i’m writing is based on myself, wife, daughter, so haven’t needed biographies. yet…

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  6. I have some character sheets. Sometimes I fill them out before I start. Other times I fill them in as the character develops. Either way, they usually change as I go.

    There have also been times that I just started writing the backstory and history of a character, then used that to fill out my character sheet.

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