The reader will only know a small portion of each character’s history, or character biography. An even smaller portion will actually be written on the page; much of a character’s history will be communicated through context and actions. However, as a writer, you should develop a full biography for each character. Even secondary and tertiary characters should have fully developed biographies. The character biography will give you insight into how the character would react in any situation. Just as with a real person, the character’s history is a combination of events, incidents, experiences, thoughts, and feelings that culminates in who the character is today (“today” being the story). The character history is the window to the driving forces behind the character.
Another critical aspect of great characters is the character’s voice. The character’s voice it the outward persona that other characters and the reader sees. It is both what the character says and how the character says it. Which words would the character use? Would he or she say “confused” or “flumoxed”? Or, would the character say anything at all in a given situation? Sometimes an author can determine a character’s voice, but just as often the character will, over the course of writing, take control and determine his or her own voice for the author. One of the best ways to discover a character’s voice is to allow the character to dictate his or her biography to you. Ask questions of the character, and allow the character to respond. For example, you may begin by asking, where were you born? When the character answers, is it simply with the town, or does the character describe the town? Is there a tinge of a Southern drawl in the response, or does the character reply in perfect English? By the time you have fully developed the character biography, you should be able to hear the character speak whenever you talk to him or her.
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