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Getting Organized: Character Bios

This is the fourth in a series of blogs about getting organized so I can finish two projects I have completed first drafts for (one a novella, one a full-length novel).
Wondering about the origins of this series? Read this blog: Getting Organized.
Other Parts: Tracking Characters, Plot Monster One & Two, Settings

This Week: Character Bios

When I first started writing my novella (and my novel), I had a general sense of who my characters were.

At the time, I wrote them for submissions to a short story website (which is now gone, conveniently enough for me).
Amongst other things, one of the features of this website was a character database, where bios could be stored and linked to your story as you thought to include the characters.

Yes, the website was a Left Behind fan site.
No, my novella and novel weren't fan fiction.
And please, don't judge.
As far as these bios go, I printed them out years ago as I was doing the same with the first drafts I posted to the site.
I stuck them together in a binder, packed them up, and didn't bust them out again until a couple of months ago.
For this current project, I scanned the bios, saved them, and then went on with the larger task I intended to write this blog post about.

My best friend this week has been notebook paper, and notebook paper alone.
Remember the binders full of it I showed you a couple of weeks ago?
Well, as a result of this week, I am down to one very large binder, and one 1" binder, instead of two 1" binders.

What I did...

My objective this week was to create rough character bios based solely on descriptions within the story (or stories, rather).
My process for these rough bios was similar to the setting cards, which I felt made a smoother transition back into the land of characters.

I created a page for each character, with notes on which parts of the story that character appeared in.
I also kept track of when a character was mentioned as opposed to appearance.
For the novel, I also made a seperate note for appearances where the character was involved in a conversation, but not in close proximity to the character he/she was talking to (i.e. phone calls, instant messaging).
For the novella, I wasn't concerned about it.
The majority of character interactions there are face-to-face.

Afterwards, I went back through the parts each character comes up in, and listed what I noticed was said about him/her, or what he/she said or did.
I already had bios with statistical information about my characters.
I wanted to see what character traits were coming through.

See what I mean? Front and back... definitely not
enough room!
I chose notebook paper as opposed to notecards this time because I was concerned about lack of space.
That concern was well-founded, because some of the character descriptions from my novel are most of a page front and back.
There are larger notecards than 3x5, and if you want to use those for your project, you are more than welcome.
I personally knew there was a lot of information about some characters, and even larger note cards were not going to have enough space to contain everything I observed.
Also, I wanted to use what I had on-hand as opposed to going out and buying more note cards.
Notebook paper is something I had a lot of, so why not?

Thoughts on the process:

Once I established a system for the settings cards, it was really easy to apply the same to the character bios.
While the process has been tedious, I am reaching a place where my characters feel like real people I am trying to get to know better.
When I create new character bios for draft #2, I now have two sources to draw information from, and should have a much better idea of ways I need to get to know them better.

As for next week, I'll be organizing all of those pesky thoughts about plots, characters, and settings that have come up in the last month-
As well as all of the notes and other rewrite attempts from months and years past.
I'm looking forward to that.
Hopefully, you are too!


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