How to Create a Character Biography

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So you’ve got a fantastic idea for a screenplay and are anxious to start creating it. You know the premise, the conflict, the stakes, the twists—pretty much everything you need to start writing, right? Well, hold on a second. No matter how high-concept your plot or how original your world, you’ve got to populate it with characters who will bring it to life. That can be trickier than it sounds. 

Whether you’re penning an action-packed heist, a stunning sci-fi epic, or a quiet family drama, every story has one thing in common: How you write characters has a huge impact on the story’s overall effectiveness and reception. Great characters can elevate a so-so premise, while even the best ideas can be totally ruined by poorly developed characters. To give your screenplay the best shot, it’s important to know your characters inside and out in order for them to come alive for the audience.

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What is a character bio template?

Character bio

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Just as it’s helpful to understand the major components of a script before you start writing, it can also be beneficial to know some basic (or not-so-basic) information about each of your characters before you attempt to set them loose in your story. A character bio (also called a character template or character profile) is a document used to organize everything you know about a character, from their family background to their favorite flavor of ice cream. Which details you’ll want to include in your character bio template can vary from one project to the next, but it’s always a good idea to have an easy point of reference for each of your characters. This will help with consistency as well as inform your writing.

Why is a character bio helpful for writers?

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Creating fully realized characters from scratch can be a daunting process. In real life, people are tremendously complex, and there’s always plenty we don’t know about any given person. While you can’t possibly know absolutely everything about your characters, creating a bio can help flesh them out enough so they feel real to your audience. Some of the benefits of creating character bio templates for your screenplay include:

  • Character development. You may know what you need a character to do, but do you know why they do it? Figuring out who your characters are, what they care about, what they’ve experienced, and how they came to be in your story is instrumental in informing how they’ll act once your plot kicks off. It will also help you get to know them better, which can make them easier to write as you grow more familiar with their personalities. 
  • Consistency. You may be able to hold all of the details about every character in your head when you first start writing, but by the time you’re 50 pages in, it can be hard to keep track of which food someone had an aversion to back on page three, or the childhood nickname you mentioned on page 12. That’s where your character bio template comes in handy; it’s an easy reference to keep track of every bit of information you know about each character, allowing you to focus on the bigger picture instead of getting bogged down in details. 
  • Find weak spots. If you start writing your character bios and realize you have pages of knowledge about one main character but only a couple sentences about another, it’s a safe bet that the second character isn’t going to be particularly compelling. Making your character bio templates on the front end can help ensure that you’re fully prepared to tell the best version of your story. 
  • Fine-tune your plot. You may think you already know every twist and turn in your plot, but getting to know your characters before you begin writing may show you that certain beats don’t make sense for the characters you’ve created. You don’t want to find yourself deep into your final act, only to discover that your climax relies on a character acting against their personality. By creating your character bio template first, you can feel confident that your plot perfectly suits your characters, and vice versa.
  • Easily keep track of the character beats you need to hit. If you know we’ll first meet a character on a blind date, or that they’re going to fall out of a plane at the end of Act 2, write it all down in their character bio. Being able to refer back to your character bios to remind yourself of your big character moments as you’re writing can come in handy when you’re bogged down in the minutiae of dialogue, stage direction, and worldbuilding. By keeping that information with the rest of your character details, you’ll be better able to keep your pacing and character arcs on track as you write, without anything slipping through the cracks.

What should you include in your character bio template?

Character bioGolubovy/Shutterstock

You’ll typically want to know at least a little bit about each of your characters on a physical, personal, and environmental level. Additionally, you may want to know some things about their background, along with the important relationships in their life. 

Who is your character physically? 

This is where you make note of everything you know about your character physically, which can include things such as their eye and hair color, racial heritage, age, height, weight, and clothing style. It can also encompass physical disabilities, unique markings such as tattoos or scars, scents, the timbre of their voice, or anything else notable about the way they present themselves, such as a distinctive walk or facial tic. Essentially, anything you’d use to describe them to someone trying to spot them in a crowd falls under this umbrella. 

What is your character’s personality? 

In this part of your character bio template, you want to dig beneath the surface. Are they an introvert or an extrovert? What pronouns do they use? Who (if anyone) are they attracted to? What is their family heritage, and how strongly do they identify with it? Do they have a great sense of humor? Are they good at math? What are their hobbies and talents? What sort of music do they listen to? What are their biggest pet peeves? Are they quick-tempered? Are they insecure? Do they fall in love eight times before breakfast? Think about how your character would describe themselves to others, what attracts and repels them, what scares them, and what brings them joy, and make notes of it all. 

How is your character affected by their environment? 

So much of how people act is influenced by their surroundings. Where does your character live? What do they do for a living? Are they the majority or minority population in their area? What rights do they have? What’s their financial situation like? Consider all of the external factors that made them into the person they are at the beginning of your story. 

What is your character’s background?

Just like our current circumstances influence who we are and how we act, so does where we came from. Think about what your character’s life was like before your story starts. Where did they grow up? How many siblings did they have? Who took care of them? Did they go to school, and if so, what level of education have they achieved? Are they religious? Think about anything that they experienced as a child that they may still be carrying with them. Even if the audience never learns those details, it can be helpful for you to be aware of them as you write. 

What are your character’s relationships?

Lastly, your character doesn’t exist in a bubble (unless they do). The people around them will also influence their personalities and the choices they make. You don’t have to know the identity of every single person they’ve ever interacted with, but it’s beneficial to know some things about their key relationships. Are they married? Do they have children? With whom do they choose to spend their free time?

How to create a character bio template

Character bio

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Some writers may find that it’s easiest to begin by writing down absolutely everything they know about their character, then organizing that information into categories. Others may like to start from a worksheet that is already organized. 

Whatever you choose to do, you’ll likely want to start out by writing down your character’s name and their role in the story. No matter how you approach your writing process after that, you probably at least know that much. If you already know more details about what they’ll be doing in the story—such as how we first meet them, what their goal will be, or their fate by the end—you can make a note of that, too. 

At this point, it’s time to start fleshing out who they are. Some possible information to include in your character bio template is:

Physical Traits:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • Hairstyle
  • Facial hair
  • Presenting gender
  • Presenting race
  • Clothing style/condition
  • Notable accessories (weapons, tools, supplies)
  • Scars/identifying marks
  • Tattoos
  • Missing/prosthetic limbs
  • Face shape
  • Body type
  • Visible accessibility aids (glasses, hearing aid, etc.)
  • Accent
  • Vocal quality

Personality/Identity:

  • Gender identity
  • Sexuality
  • Introvert/extrovert/ambivert
  • Cultural identification
  • Birthday
  • Age
  • Religious affiliation
  • Sense of humor
  • Hobbies
  • Habits
  • Natural talents
  • Acquired skills
  • Aesthetic preferences
  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • Phobias/fears
  • Intelligence
  • Neurodivergence
  • Temperament 
  • Self-image
  • Confidence level
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Intelligence
  • Dreams/goals
  • Core motivation
  • Social skills
  • Allergies

Environmental factors:

  • Occupation
  • Housing
  • Financial situation
  • Geographic location
  • Climate
  • Political structure
  • Societal position
  • Dominant local culture
  • Legal rights
  • Social power
  • Local plant and animal life

Background:

  • Number of siblings
  • Adult influences as a child
  • Birth order
  • Childhood role in family
  • Parental/guardian occupations
  • Family temperaments 
  • Work history
  • Educational history
  • Religious history
  • Childhood housing 
  • Family financial status
  • Family social status
  • Childhood friendships
  • Location where they grew up 
  • Childhood injuries/traumas
  • Medical history
  • Nicknames/aliases  

Relationships:

  • Spouse/partner
  • Friendships 
  • Enemies
  • Parasocial relationships 
  • Parents/guardians
  • Siblings
  • Children 
  • Co-workers
  • Pets
  • Mentors/teachers/supervisors 
  • Students/subordinates 
  • Neighbors

Not all stories will require the same types of character information, so what you decide to include may vary from one script to another. However, it can still be helpful to start from the same basic place every time, and then tweak as necessary.

Character bio template example

Character bio

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If you’re ready to get started creating your own character bio template, you can make your own using the tips above, or download ours as a starting point and adjust as necessary to suit your needs. 

Download our sample character bio template here.