In a previous chapter, "Writing Novels #2: Outlining a Novel" I mentioned writing out a character bio for your outline. While there are many that exist out there, there is one I have saved to my computer that I use every time. I like it because it focuses on more indepth stuff, not just physical things like height, weight, job, family, etc. It really helps you get to know your main character.
Anyway, here it is: (I would post a link on the side, but I can't find it online again!)
1. What do you know about this character that he/she does not yet know?
2. What is this character's greatest flaw?
3. What do you know about this character that s/he would never admit?
4. What is this character's greatest asset?
5. If this character could choose a different identity, who would s/he be?
6. What music does this character sing to when nobody else is around?
7. In what or whom does this character have the greatest faith?
8. What is your character's favorite movie?
9. Does this character have a favorite article of clothing? Favorite shoes?
10. Does this character have a vice? Name it.
11. Name this character's favorite person. (Living or dead.)
12. What is this character's secret wish?
13. What is this character's proudest achievement?
14. Describe this character's most embarrassing moment.
15. What is this character's deepest regret?
16. What is this character's greatest fear?
17. Describe this character's most devastating moment.
18. What is this character's greatest achievement?
19. What is this character's greatest hope?
20. Does this character have an obsession? Name it.
21. What is this character's greatest disappointment?
22. What is this character's worst nightmare?
23. Whom does this character most wish to please. Why?
24. Describe this character's mother. (Not just physical attributes.)
25. Describe this character's father.
26. If s/he had to choose, with whom would this character prefer to live?
27. Where does this character fall in birth order? How does this affect him/her?
28. Describe this character's siblings or other close relatives.
29. Describe this character's bedroom. Include three cherished objects.
30. What is this character's birthdate? How does this character manifest traits of his/her astrological sign?
31. If this character had to live in seclusion for six months, what six items would s/he bring?
32. Why is this character angry?
33. What calms this character?
34. Describe a recurring dream or nightmare this character might have.
35. List the choices (not circumstances) that led the character to their current predicament.
36. List the circumstances over which the character has no control.
37. What wakes this character in the middle of the night?
38. How would a stranger describe this character?
39. What does this character resolve to do differently each morning?
40. Who depends on this character? Why?
41. If this character knew s/he had exactly one month left to live, what would s/he do?
42. How would a dear friend or relative describe this character?
43. What is this character's most noticeable physical attribute?
44. What is this character hiding from him/herself.
45. Write one additional thing about your character.
Okay, so I realize that is a lot of questions, and it's perfectly fine if you don't/can't answer all of them. I didn't! But try the best you can to come up with answers that fit into your plot and characterization, because it will really make your character that much deeper.
It also doesn't hurt to make these bios for secondary characters. As I saw in a quote once, "Treat the secondary characters like they think the story is about them."
Also, remember that you don't need to include all of these details in the actual story, but it is all right for the author to be a little more knowledgeable about the character s/he is writing.
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