Screenwriting : Character Bio's by Kiril Maksimoski

Kiril Maksimoski

Character Bio's

Do you explore detailed biographies on your characters and does this help you establishing a better story?

Although this isn't my practice, I've come to thinking that by outlining character's past, habits even the tiny personality details that won't even necessarily be used in the script can help me better understand that "person" and by that present it better.

Stefano Pavone

I do so in the bibles of my works, just to help give the reader an indication of their personality (a habit I picked up from my background in writing novels).

Richard P. Alvarez

This is a question that gets asked a lot - in one form or another. How much 'prep' do you do before writing. Backstories, histories, timelines, outlines - or do you just 'wing it'. Different folks benefit from both paths.

I've found over the years, if I go much beyond a bare sketch of an outline - I grow bored and lose interest in the story. If I work EVERYTHING out ahead of time - I feel I've already 'written' it and the rest is drudgery. The thrill of discovery has been tapped. That's just me - though I've met a few folks who feel the same way.

Some folks need to have it all worked out beforehand - in order to move confidently through the process. Always leaving room for a bit of change along the way. Nothing wrong with that. Seems most of the books and guides recommend this.

I usually have a 'vague' half formed idea of who my characters are. Generated by the plot and setting. But as they interact with other characters, or face obstacles, I allow my sub-conscious to create their back story. Often I am surprised to learn about their histories or experiences as they relate them on the page. It's what keeps me excited.

Of course, there's a lot of rewriting to be done afterwards - but that's true anyway. I don't think it's slower or faster than a lot of detailed prep. I think it's just an approach that lends itself to the creativity of certain personalities. Whether it's plot or character - I like chipping away the raw material to see what's hidden inside. I've always thought good writing was lucid dreaming. (Bad writing is a nightmare).

I'm working now on a pilot for a series. I'm having to outline the future episodes, and it's a bit of a tightrope to sketch them in - without draining the thrill. The bible and character sheets are part of the pitch package - so it's going to be done.

I'm enjoying the challenge.

Craig D Griffiths

I have an idea. I normally think of a question or idea and start with someone different to that. So their exploration of the idea acts as a proxy for the audience.

Rebecca D Robinson

I do a bit. It helps make their reactions authentic.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy


Sophia Bryant-Scott

I do. I'm also finding that the question "what do they think is the worst thing that can happen to someone" is a helpful one to ask. Even if the details aren't there, the subtext becomes part of the piece.

Doug Nelson

Not really - just a few notes. A character comes alive through its actions, reactions and dialog.

Kiril Maksimoski

Richard P. Alvarez thanks for the elaboration, I too do think that others need to contribute to the character development too, such as actors who should really be character authors. But, Rebecca D Robinson is closest to my point here...I think one of biggest flaws screenwriter can do is create a two-dimensional character which then reflects actor playing him and that reflects poor reaction from the audiences. Really matters to create characters people care for.

@ All rest, Thanks a lot on your comments, guys! :)

Craig Prickett

I usually don't but if I feel the character seems a bit 2 dimensional I do a 6 page Character Sketch Template I found on some writing site years ago.After doing that if I don't know the characters truth I never will.

Erick Freitas

I do it sometimes. It can help, but I rather kind of figure out who this person is by putting them in tough situations. See what they do to get out.

Thom Reese

I develop my character bios as I write my first draft. I find them very helpful in staying consistent with my character's tone, actions, and motivations. My first draft is largely me getting to know my characters and I add to their bios as I go.eventually coming up with a pretty full history of primary characters and a solid broad-brush background for secondary characters.

Bill Costantini

Hi Kiril,

I'm not a "Wing-It-During-My-Story" kinda writer, and like to know a character's backstory before I actually start writing a first draft. Each character's function in my stories should fit, and I have to figure it out before I start writing. Like Thom, explained about a character's tone, actions and also really does help to keep things consistent. It also helps make the ironies, flaws, and what they have to overcome more purposeful. All-in-all, it makes it easier for me to write a more natural story.

I know there are a lot of theories/templates/beliefs about this topic, and everybody has their own way of doing things. I like to know as much about my characters' backstories as I can. That doesn't mean I'm writing 50-page biographies about each one, but I do use a checklist that would yield a pretty decent bio.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Kiril, and stay safe!

Jim Boston

Kiril, I actually do detailed (or semi-detailed) biographies on my characters. Sometimes, I pattern them after certain people I've met; sometimes, they're modeled after some TV stars or movie stars.

But with all of my main characters, I run them through a test a man named Sherman Cohen cooked up...where he used the Number One record on "Billboard's" US pop chart on a person's birthday to get a clue about that person's overall character. (For instance, on 8-29-1958, the day Michael Jackson was born, "Little Star," the only major hit for a singing group called the Elegants, ruled America's "Billboard" pop chart.)

Thought the "Number One pop hit on your birthday" method would help me out in I started using it in 1992, during my first go-'round at scripts.

Thanks for posting, Kiril...and all the VERY BEST to you!

Kiril Maksimoski

Thanks ya'll for such an interest on this post! Feedback received is really appreciated!

Arjuwan Lakkdawala

The idea is to get under the skin of the character. That would be improved with imagining their experiences. The mind can make fake memories the more you think about the fictional past of the character. A psychological trick that can cut your conscious work by half.

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In