On Writing : Character Creation by Robert D. Heller

Character Creation

How do you write a good character bio? I've written two or three bios for the same character, both in different formats. I'm not satisfied with either style? Am I over-thinking this?

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Robert, essentially your character must have flaws / setbacks / things to learn --- and the plot will keeping throwing obstacles at this. HOW your character deals with these conflicts = the plot. Have you given your protagonist enough flaws (or things to learn)??

JD Holiday, Author And Illustrator

I agree with Linda.

Robert D. Heller

Hi Linda, The problem is is that I see so many ways to write one up in books and online, I don't know if one way is better than the other.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Robert, keep this in mind: The possible endings of a story are: The protagonist will get what s/he wants The protagonist will NOT get what s/he wants at all Though the protagonist doesn't get what s/he wanted, there will be an epiphany. Working backward, you only need to know the key elements of the main characters that will lead to obstacles and other setbacks to the goal. Go lean. Good luck.

Regina Walker

The character has to have a weakness and do something they fear or refuse initially to do.

Robert D. Heller

Thanks, Linda Ann.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

To the above, I would add that when I'm thinking about a story and a particular character who may be necessary to tell that story, I always want to think of something which makes that character especially interesting/valuable/meaningful to me personally. This does not necessarily mean a good quality. Bad guys need their own, perhaps thoroughly nasty, distinguishing characteristic. OK, that's a bit general. Let's make it more particular. For every character, even the most minor unnamed ones, I want to think of something which he/she can do which stamps them as unique. Depending on how much the character is on screen, it may be something very small. In the script which I'm working on now, the protagonist is a woman. People who work with her respect her and try to help her at times. She rejects the help which often gets her into more trouble. A totally original character? No. Not at all. But this ‘Joan of Arc’/'Don't listen anybody. Always go your own way.' approach to life makes her fascinating to me. Then, I think, I can write her better. The bad guys are not only bad; they are nihilist. That is, sometimes they do something vicious and destructive just because it’s vicious and destructive. No reason. So in a sense, they are twisted ‘fun house mirror images’ of her. She always has a reason (perhaps a mistaken one) for what she does. And they often don’t. So in your character bios, I suggest that you look for, not necessarily the character’s favorite color or what they usually eat for breakfast, but what values they hold which make them interesting to you. It may help you write them.

Robert D. Heller

Thank you, Douglas. That's a good idea.

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