Character biographies

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Jodan

  • Thursday 1st January 2015, 2:39am [Edited]
  • England
  • 23 posts

hi everyone,
I've been plugging away at writing stuff for an idea of mine and I was just wondering how everyone else tends to work and get stuff down on paper. It seems I'm getting bogged down in character bios at the minute, things that aren't likely to be in the series but it does help with getting to know where a characters been and how they would react to certain situation etc. Basically I'm asking if people tend to get the characters written and then hope the action and comedy comes from them.

thanks!

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beaky

  • Thursday 1st January 2015, 10:32am
  • Malaga and Brighton, United Kingdom
  • 2,273 posts

Character biographies aren't important, if they're bogging you down forget about them and just start writing. Their characters will appear as you progress and rewrite.

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Lazzard

  • Thursday 1st January 2015, 11:54am
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,278 posts

I think character bios are a waste of time.
Characters should react the way you want them to react, pushing the story forward in the way you want.
For this they need to be flexible - if it suddenly suits that they are afraid of heights, make them afraid of heights - but you can only know this once you've developed the story to that point.
Then by all means create a back story if it might have relevance to the story, but don't bust a gut.
Yes, you need to be aware of inconsistencies and there needs to be an internal logic to the way they act, but listing where they went to school and what their favourite childhood toy was is just prevarication.
Sadly it's the kind of hogwash people use to fill up 'how-to' books.

The only thing you ned to know before starting a story is how it ends.

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beaky

  • Thursday 1st January 2015, 12:06pm
  • Malaga and Brighton, United Kingdom
  • 2,273 posts
Quote: Lazzard @ 1st January 2015, 11:54 AM GMT


The only thing you need to know before starting a story is how it ends.

Not even that - the ending often only becomes obvious when you're writing.

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Lazzard

  • Thursday 1st January 2015, 1:54pm [Edited]
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,278 posts
Quote: beaky @ 1st January 2015, 12:06 PM GMT

Not even that - the ending often only becomes obvious when you're writing.

Mmmm...

I think the details of the event can change, but I think you need to know the direction of travel.
Not so much in novels, but the economy required for writing for the screen means you can't afford too many detours.
But, different strokes...

Apart from character bios.
They're daft.

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gappy

  • Thursday 1st January 2015, 4:41pm
  • Oxford, England
  • 1,941 posts

J M Barrie didn't work out Tinkerbell's back story, and she ended up quite an effective character.

Fairy non-bio, I think that's called.

:$

That atrocious pun aside, I agree with the others, for what it's worth: build the story round the basic characters, then let the story itself fill them out.

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Wills

  • Friday 2nd January 2015, 4:20pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 73 posts

I think it's useful, but only to a point - I wouldn't spend forever and a day on them. Put it this way, it's much more important that you have the plot clear in your head than the minutiae of each character. Spend more time on that before you write for sure, otherwise you'll waffle/be less direct and back yourself into corners. You can be flexible once you start of course, but its easier to change direction when you know where you're going in the first place.

What I have found character work useful for, is actually plot ideas. It might be a throwaway 'like, 'dislike', point of view etc that will unlock a pathway for you in terms of plot. Like I say though, and others have said - the characters will unravel and develop as you go. Go at it like a stream of consciousness/nonsense...don't over think it. You'll be suprised what pops up when you're not really trying to be exact, and it's a nice change from agonising over every syllable in the script :-)

Good luck with it!!

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Jennie

  • Friday 2nd January 2015, 10:07pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 2,767 posts

Character bios are useful only to the level of helping you work out what your character's attitudes are.

For example, the fact character A was bitten by a dog is not useful. The fact he is now terrified of all dogs is useful.

So focus on attitudes rather than facts.

Personally, I find detailed plot outlines more useful than character bios. But that is only because I really hate doing first drafts and want to make it as painless as possible.

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Vince Ives

  • Sunday 11th January 2015, 9:45pm
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 270 posts

Some people swear by them, some people don't. Paul Feig's infamously exhaustive series bible for Freaks & Geeks goes into great detail... http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Freaks_and_Geeks/Freaks_and_Geeks_Bible.pdf
...whereas on Community, Dan Harmon had notes like "Annie Edison - Tracy Flick from Election with prescription drug problem', and then the casting shaped who/what the characters became.

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Marc P

  • Sunday 11th January 2015, 10:21pm
  • England
  • 17,698 posts

It's a great way to stop doing any work.

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Wills

  • Sunday 11th January 2015, 10:41pm
  • England
  • 73 posts

there are so many better ways to not do work Marc, I'm starting to get really good at it. Today I made a pyramid out of scrunched up balls of paper.

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Marc P

  • Sunday 11th January 2015, 10:43pm
  • England
  • 17,698 posts

Not such a good alibi with the wife though or the agent/publisher/editor etc! :(

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Marc P

  • Monday 12th January 2015, 1:54pm
  • England
  • 17,698 posts

I suppose when the character list gets way into four figures over time I guess you have learned to do instinctively. Maybe it depends on the particular genre but for me back story/character history is only interesting in terms of current narrative. And character is only interesting when in action and not repose. Sum your character up with a single sentence defining ATTITUDE and that should be good enough.

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Tiggy

  • Monday 12th January 2015, 3:20pm
  • Reading, England
  • 162 posts

Just been listening to the Dicky Herring podcast thingy with Charlie Higson. Higson wrote the young James Bond books. He had a moan that James Bond stayed 35 years old for the 15 years Flemming wrote him so his back story kept changing.

Biographies are in my head. I only ever write pilots so I don't need to remember much about the characters. I do have a great mental image of them. If I wrote loads about them I would keep basic notes on them. If the writers of Red Dwarf had done so maybe Lister wouldn't have had his appendix out twice!

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