Writing a character biography can be one of the most helpful things to do when writing a book. In fact, those character bios about your primary and secondary characters may very well be the best tool for creating the perfect twists and turns for your plot to keep your readers engaged, whether you’re writing romance, fantasy, or mystery novels.
But what do you include in those bios? What are the most important things you need to know about your main characters? Here’s a simple list of 10 categories and a sample bio from my book “Drop Dead Daisy” to help you along the way.
- Basic demographics (full name, DOB, place of birth, ethnicity, current residence, relationship status, IQ score, job, etc.)
- Family & personal medical history (anything that could help shape the story)
- Family background (parents’ names, origin, and at least birth-year, siblings’ names and ages, religious/moral/ethical/philosophical upbringing, childhood home, etc.)
- Personal taste (likes and dislikes in music, television/movies, favorite and least favorite colors, food preferences, tastes in the opposite gender, favorite books/authors, pet peeves, etc.)
- Current beliefs and attitudes (religious beliefs, attitudes about money, job, politics, family [growing up, and about their own family unit if they are married, media, etc.)
- Relationships (with parents, with significant other, best friend(s), co-workers/employees/employer, and so on and so forth)
- Physical characteristics (hair and eye color, height, weight, frame size, body type, clothing style choices, personal hygiene habits, nervous ticks/habits, unusual physical abilities, physical disabilities/limitations, etc.)
- Personality type (you can go with “type A/B/C” or whatever, or you can list out details about the character, such as “control-freak, rude, thoughtful, quiet, obnoxious”)
- Fears and dreams (what do they most fear and why? What do they most dream of doing with his life someday? What is their bucket list for other pursuits? etc.)
- And my favorite–talents, odd habits, quirks, and more (what they are really good at, annoying habits, “cute” habits, spontaneous?
One of my disorganized sample character bios from “Drop Dead Daisy.” (Note: not all elements of the list above are included, as some features would give away some of the plot!)
Daisy Meeks—Born in 1972, the story begins in 1991. 6’1″, slender, brunette with ice blue eyes (heavily rimmed irises)–drop-dead gorgeous, and knows it. Lead guitarist for a rock band. Brilliant stage personality. Wants all the attention. Likes bad men, hates easy-going, calm guys and short guys. Often brooding and moody.
Born and raised in Chicago. Enjoys laughing, but not as much as her best friend, Velma. Mother died of cancer when she was only three, and father dumped them in her mother’s sister’s lap when Daisy was ten. One sister, also died of cancer. Tends to be a bit of a player.
Despite being a rocker, she refuses to do drugs or drink alcohol because of an incident in her past. Goes running alone whenever she’s feeling emotional or needing to produce ideas. Refuses to let anyone come with her. Most drawn to people who have had complicated lives as she has. She has two best friends, Velma and Ilanna, both of whom keep her from being as cynical as naturally.
Lives over the garage at Ilanna’s parents’ home. Exceptionally closed-off to people. Hates sharing her feelings, except through song. Extremely private with everyone except those closest to her. Enjoys flirting with strange men. Always wears sunglasses because her pale eyes hurt too much in the sunlight. She is indifferent to spiritual/religious things. However, she has a decent work ethic and relationships with her co-workers and classmates/professors.
Odd habit: puts her pick in her mouth when she fingerpicks and flips the pick with her tongue until she needs it again. Constantly wears one piece of cheap jewelry that she refuses to take off, though only Velma knows why. Dreams of one day owning a Surfcaster guitar.
Looking for more writing resources and tools? Check these out.
- Cozy Mystery Writing Prompts
- Paranormal Fiction Writing Prompt
- Fight Write: Writing Resource book review
- Line and Sinker: Hooked Writing Resource book review
Editor-in-Chief of The MockingOwl Roost, Rita Mock-Pike is the granddaughter of aviatrix, Jerrie Mock, first woman to pilot an airplane solo around the world. Rita has found inspiration from her grandmother’s life and flight and pursued many of her own dreams in theatre, podcasting, novel writing, and cooking up delicious food from around the world. She now writes on food, travel, pets, faith, and the arts. She’s happily married to Matt, and faithfully serves the very fluffy kitten queen, Lady Stardust.