The Big Bad Bio

The Big Bad Bio

The Big Bad Bio

I’ve talked about Bio’s (Character Biographies) before in “Who’s who in the grand scheme of things”.  Now that I have a few books under my belt and I just finished my newest novel(Super excited) I wanted to talk about Bio’s again.  I’ve had some time to work out the kinks and hone the process.

I’ll start with my how.  Whether it’s a pad of paper, word document or my personal favorite a spreadsheet, I think it’s imperative to keep a Bio on EVERYONE in the story. Even if it’s the crotchety old neighbor who only shakes a fist at the protagonist and is in the story for all of one second.

Why?

Because, if I know what they look like, their quirks, age, DOB, family status, level of education, job status, pay rate etc. etc. then I can always make sure John, the Virgo barista has blond hair and brown eyes and doesn’t magically have green eyes and become the bartender who’s birthday is in January. Consistency is mega important and any reader who’s read a book and found something off… tends to never forget and never fully forgive, especially if they find two or heaven forbid more than two.

So what does a big bad bio of mine look like?  If I have a simple one page Bio, it will look like this:

BIO

I often don’t apply a year to the DOB because I don’t apply a year to my stories. This type of quick bio is good for quick references. If I want to go into more detail, I will create a full-page bio for each major and minor character.

Which details I put in are usually story driven. If I only ever have Jane wearing cut-off jeans and that’s important to the story I put that in her bio.

Here is a list of things I might have in the bio. Now if I have a lot, and I usually do I’ll have more than one page for the bio. I will either create an individual Bio page for each or I’ll group Bio Stats one page would be appearance another would be behavior and another might be education and employment.

Not all individual bio’s are equal. Obviously, the main characters will have much more detailed bio’s than Albert the hotdog vendor. Repeat or reoccurring characters get a little more TLC than Pauline the bitter angry bus driver who hits the brakes too hard at every stop.

Here is a list of what I might include

Name
Age
Weight
Height
Eye Color
Skin Color
Hair Color
Hair Style
Bad Habits
Good Habits

Ethnicity/Family origin
Religion
Birthdate or DOB
Education
Job
Tattoos
Scars
Quirks
Catch Phrases
Likes/Dislikes
Favorite Food
Hated Food
Type of music
Style of Clothes

The options are endless, ideally, they would be listed if there is a significant difference or if the character is minor and I might forget. Some of the things may never even be mentioned in the book. I’ll still give each character a full bio.  I’ll even give them a history or back-story. It’s important when I’m writing to be able to stay focused, and having to stop and go back pages or chapters to remind myself of one tiny detail is annoying and distracting.

My advice about Characters Bio’s.
There is no right or wrong way to create a Bio as long as you can read it and understand what’s what. They are very important and I think they can make things a lot easier if you decide to have a return visit from a minor or very, very minor character.

-Sheryl

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5 thoughts on “The Big Bad Bio

  1. I create a list for my characters too, probably not as extensively as you do, but it’s a quick reminder when or if I have to refer back to them. Saves finding the passage in the story (especially when minuscule) should something said, a look, a thought, an action, lead to a significant breakthrough. It really helps. And it’s absolutely true, that something as insignificant as the lady next door shaking her fist in her “whatever coloured dress and mismatched outfit” becomes a memorable moment, and the reader does not forget. I know I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I see that. I have learned how important it can be after an inconsequential char. Had to be recalled and I’d forgotten the eye colour. It taught me I needed a list ages family connection tons, etc beyond the regular outline of each character. Not something I’m likely to forget

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great idea, I do it for my main characters but should do it for everyone. Detail is so important, not just having it but *using* it! For instance I’m reading a serial on another blog right now and I don’t know what colour eyes the main character has. It’s written in first person so it can be tricky to get in but the character has had family members in the story so could have said for instance that her brother had ‘blue eyes just like mine’ or ‘he had my father’s blue eyes while mine were brown like my mother’s’ or something like that..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read a lot of serial stories(Usually blog stories) that miss a detail like eyes or even hairstyle. I have to admit I don’t always notice and I often fill in the blanks myself. I find magic changing eye color more annoying than no eye color. I say while rolling my brown eyes. My newest book is being previewed right now from the first edit. I’m getting a few comments that are pointing to a minor inconsistency in one character. I’ll do a read through specifically to focus on that one. I personally like when someone lets me know so I can correct. My new book is in the first person and I have to admit, I struggled to get a description out to the reader of my main character without resorting to the dreaded ‘mirror’. Now that you’ve brought it up I’m going to go reread the first chapter and make sure I did…

      Liked by 1 person

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