Using character bios to create characters that connect with your readers
Last time I wrote about using 4C to improve your story telling skills. Today we zero in on the fourth C — “Characters”, meaning that your characters need to be alive and convincing.
There are many ways to do this. As mentioned in the last post, action is one of them. However, your character’s action can not be random. Although it is you who create that character, you can not ask him or her to behave in a way that is not in-line with his or her personality traits, social background, economic strength, personal experiences, and so on.
In fact, not just action, everything about your character must make sense in the big picture. Otherwise your readers won’t be able to connect with them. They’d say this character is too good to be true, that character too out of place, or this one too thin.
The question you should ask yourself is: How can I create characters with whom my readers can connect as they read my story?
The answer is to create a character bio.
Bio is short for biography, i.e., an account of someone’s life.
It usually includes the following:
- Income and life style
- Character’s appearance
- Character’s health
- Family members
- Family life
- Character’s main relationships
- Character’s important life milestones, successes and failures
- Hopes or regrets
- Major influences
- Opinions on social events
This list is not exhaustive. The purpose is to get you thinking about your characters. The more you think about them, the better you answer the next question: “Why is this character important in my story?”
To have better results, write down all the details about your characters.
Write as much as possible. Describe your characters as much as you can. Give them each a story of their own.
These character bios are not for your readers to read. They are for you to think hard about your characters’ journey in your story. Why does he run? Why does she refuse this job? Why does he hope to be more confident? Why doesn’t she go to school? Why isn’t he happy?
Although your readers won’t read these pages and pages of character bios, they’ll read your story. And in your story, because you’ve done so much about your characters, everything makes sense.
When everything makes sense, your readers will understand, understand your story, your character’s past, present, and future. When they understand, they’re on your side. They connect.
The conclusion is that working on your character bio is an effective way to make sure that your story is a coherent one.
As we are on the topic of bio, I’d like to mention that a short bio, a maximum of 70 words, is required for all participants in the coming Chinese Writing Contest 2023.
This short bio will be used as your introduction in the new book, Easy-to-Read Chinese Short Stories, Book 3, if your entry is chosen to be included.
Different from your character’s bio, this bio of yours is for everyone to read and to know you as a writer.