***Writing great fiction starts with writing great characters!***
Think of a character bio template as a shortcut for developing realistic characters. It's the key to creating believable protagonists and antagonists that come alive through your writing.
Character templates include guiding questions to help you shape your main characters as you write.
By answering significant questions about your character's development, not only will you be able to understand a character inside and out, but you’ll also be able to show your readers the depth of your character.
Creating life-like characters goes beyond just plopping your character into the storyline, giving them a name, and describing a few traits.
This guide to creating a character bio template includes:
- What is a character bio?
- Why is character development important?
- Why should you use a character development template?
- What should a character template include?
- How to use this character bio template
- Tips for using this character bio template in your writing
- Character template basics
- Physical descriptors of character
- Character health bio
- Career details
- Character preferences
- Family life of character bio
- Character relationships
- Character template life stages
- Character perspectives
- Character's story development
And it’s not just for fiction – but for non-fiction, too. Are you writing a memoir? A biography? A self-help book using “case studies” or examples of people in particular situations? Experimenting with creative writing prompts?
You’ll want to fill out a character bio template for your main character if you’re writing one of these non-fiction books as well!
Even if your character is modelled after a real person, that’s not enough to make him or her come alive for the reader. As an aspiring author, the first rule of thumb is to fully develop your character. You need to create an individual with a story of their own that readers want to engage and connect with as they read your book.
Your character’s development should not be an after-thought – after all, you’re telling a story, and the story likely centers around the characters.
Invest the time to answer these questions, and you’ll see just how real your character will become.
What is a character bio?
A character bio is a document or template that outlines the biography of a character in a story. Commonly used in the form of a character template, which includes in-depth questions that highlight the character's traits, descriptions, and journey, the character bio is used as a resource for the writer's reference.
It helps the writer keep track of the character's personal traits, background, and that character's arc, which in turn helps the reader understand the character's dynamics through the story. By creating a character with a past, present, and future, storytellers are able to paint a vivid picture of the character's behavior and actions as displayed in the story.
The main goal of using a character bio is to increase the realistic attributes of the character, to ultimately make them more believable and relatable for the reader.
Character templates are used mainly by fiction writers and authors, screenwriters, and other storytellers. Character bios should be created for all main characters in the story, for both protagonists and antagonists, to improve the overall character development.
Why is character development important?
Character development is important because the more developed a character is, the more realistic the character is – and readers want to invest in characters that are believable.
Have you ever been so connected to a book or story that you were devastated when you finished reading it? You were sad to say goodbye to the characters. You wished you could open up the portal to that world forever.
If you’ve experienced that, then you were emotionally invested in the characters and their lives. You connected with them – you felt like you truly knew them. And that’s because the writer did such a phenomenal job developing the character, that they seemed real to you as the reader.
That’s exactly what you want to do with your own writing. You want to write characters that are so fully developed, the reader will become invested in their lives.
And the secret to fully developing characters lies in being able to answer detailed questions about your character, which is how this character bio template will help you.
Top character development tips to use when writing:
- Start with a mind map or outline of your character's journey in the story
- Brainstorm the character's main characteristics as needed for the story's plot
- Practice writing about your character to get a solid idea of who the character is
- Give your character a main goal, purpose, motivation, and flaw
- Fill out the character bio template to fill in any gaps and get clear on their history and small details
- Interview your character to build their perspective
- Complete writing exercises in your character's perspective to fully develop the character's mindset
- Begin writing your story with your fully developed character in mind
Why should you use a character template?
Using a character bio template will help you create realistic characters that your readers will believe in, and connect with.
You should develop a character bio to create believable characters for two reasons.
First, by answering character development questions, you’ll know the character like the back of your hand, which helps you tell your story better.
Second, the character template will help you create an actual individual by painting a comprehensive, detailed picture of who they are – from what they look like to their personality quirks to their biggest mistakes in life.
Reasons to use a character bio template:
- To help you tell your story better
- To prevent inconsistencies in details
- To create a life-like character, full of personality with a comprehensive living history
- To use as a reference when incorporating details about your character
- To improve your character's development
- To help readers connect and relate to your character
- To immerse your reader in your story
What should a character profile include?
A character profile, or character template, should include all of the relevant details that the writer needs to incorporate into the story, to fully develop the character. Some writers use a basic character bio, with only relevant details that show the character's arc within the story, while other writers use an advanced, comprehensive character bio with specific details about the character's life, personality, aspirations, and internal and external features. The type of character profile you include will depend on several factors, such as the type of work you are creating (ex: novel, short story, film), and the type of writer you are (ex: do you need a comprehensive profile, or just a one-page summary?). However, at the minimum, you should include the specific details about your character that highlight his or her role in the story, and how they develop within your story.
What to include in your character profile:
- Character basics such as name, age,
- Physical description of character's appearance
- The personality traits of the character
- Overview of the character's health
- Career and education details
- Preferences and motivations of the character
- Description of the character's family life
- Overview of the character's main relationships
- Important life stages and milestones
- Character perspectives, outlook, and opinions
- Character's role in the story's development
How to use this character bio template
This particular character template is comprehensive, and designed to be used as an in-depth resource with more advanced character development questions. Novel writer and short story writers will benefit from this template to create a full character bio.
Fill this template out fully for each of your main characters (protagonist and antagonist), and use the sheet as a reference for your writing.
It’s best to complete the character template sheet once you have your story’s outline, but before you actually start writing your rough draft. If you’ve already started writing your rough draft, that’s okay – you can still use this template and it will be helpful as you edit and complete your draft.
Read this article if you want to learn more about how to write a book outline.
steps to use a character bio template to improve your character's development:
- Start with a good idea of your character's creation, like who they are and what their purpose is in your story
- Know your character's motivation, main goal, purpose, and flaw
- Begin filling out the basic section in your character bio template
- Get clear on the physical descriptors of your character
- Fill out health section of the character bio
- Next, build out your character's career details
- Think about what your character prefers
- Dig into the family history in the character's bio
- Then, move on to the relationships section of the template
- Narrow down your character's main life stages
- Develop the character's perspectives and views of the world
- Next, build the character's story development
- Review the full character bio template to make sure every detail connects, and that there are not any inconsistencies
- Practice writing in your character's perspective to get a natural feel for the way your character thinks and acts
- Practice writing about your character in different perspectives (as a narrator, as a friend/lover/enemy of the character)
- Repeat steps #1-16 for any major characters in your story (good or bad ones!)
- Reference your completed character bio template as you begin writing your story
Follow the steps above to develop a realistic character that readers will be invested in.
Don’t just share this character template directly with your reader – it is meant to be a complete guide for you as you write about who your character is, and how he or she affects the story.
This character template serves as a skeleton for developing a realistic character, so you should be able to answer each question. You need to be able to answer everything about your character, but your reader only needs to know the details that help tell the story.
These character development questions are comprehensive, so this doesn’t mean you need to tell your reader everything about your character. Only give your reader what they need to know about your character as it pertains to your story.
If you’re writing a genre or story that requires more questions, feel free to add more as you see fit! For example, if you’re writing a sci-fi novel, maybe you need to answer more questions about your character’s species, or the special powers that they possess.
As you write, you’ll want to have a copy of your completed character bio template nearby so it can be retrieved easily and referenced. This will help you tell your story more accurately, by avoiding little mistakes or inconsistencies in your plot and story setting.
For example, let’s say you start the story with describing your character as a vegetarian, but later on have your character order a hamburger at a restaurant. This is a detail that many engaged readers will notice!
Tips for using this character bio template in your writing:
- Complete the character bio after your outline is completed. Start filling out the character bio sheet after you complete your story outline, but before you start fully writing your chapters. This will ensure you have a solid idea of what details make sense based on your story's main events, but still gives you the opportunity to incorporate the small details into your actual story.
- Use the character template as a reference guide when writing. Don't just fill out the template and share it with your readers. This exercise is meant for you, as the author, so that you can fully develop all the intricacies of your character, and incorporate relevant details to shape who your character is, and their purpose in the story.
- Don't skip any questions that can be answered. Answer as many questions about your character as possible. Obviously, if a question does not apply to your character (like if they are a child and do not have any past relationships), skip it. But don't avoid questions simply because you don't want to think. Cutting corners in this way will reflect in your character's development.
- Only give your reader what they need to know when you're writing. Just because you answer every question in the character development sheet, doesn't mean that your reader needs to know all of those details. Only give what's necessary, and what will help your reader understand your character better.
- Add more questions as needed. This template is meant to be a starting point for you. If you need to add more questions, do so, especially if you're writing a genre like Sci-Fi where your characters are non-human.
- Think about the small details. Once you start writing, the character bio template will bring value to your dialogue, scene setting, and plot. Don't be afraid to focus on the small details.
Character template basics
Begin by answering these basic questions about your character. These character development questions are the surface-level facts that you can use to start building your character.
These are the essential facts to fill out for your character, such as name, birthday, race, gender, etc. This section should be particularly quick for you to fill out since you most likely know all of these details for your character already. These questions help show your character's development on a surface-level.
These are the basic questions for your character template:
- Name significance/meaning:
- Zodiac Sign:
Physical Descriptors of Character
Now, you can start building out your character’s physical appearance. These are external questions that will paint a physical description, so your reader can envision what your character looks like.
The physical attributions for your character template are important because they will also help you write vivid descriptions and apply physical attributes to your character’s actions in your book.
These are the physical appearance questions for the character template:
- Physical Appearance:
- Skin Tone:
- Eye Color:
- Natural Hair Color:
- Body Type:
- Dominant Hand:
- Age Character Appears to Others:
- Dyed Hair Color:
- Usual Hairstyle:
- Makeup Style:
- Clothing Style:
- Clothing Size:
- Shoe Style:
- Shoe Size:
- Nail Appearance:
- Painted/Natural/Manicured/Rugged/FakeEyebrow Shape:
- Face Shape:
- Facial Hair:
- Voice: What does it sound like?
- Distinguishing Feature: What people notice right away
Now it’s time to start scratching beneath the surface to better understand the type of personality the character has. These character development questions focus on describing the personality traits within the character’s demeanor as they are in the present time of the story.
For example, most people that are naturally introverts will always be introverts. But, maybe your introverted character has only recently developed a habit of talking to people on the subway as they commute to work every day.
These are the personality questions for the character's development:
- Extrovert or Introvert:
- Personality Traits:
- MBTI Personality:
- Optimist or Pessimist:
- Temperament: Are they generally hot-headed, or cool as a cucumber?
- Mood: What mood are they often in?
- Attitude: What everyday attitude does your character have?
- Morning Person or Night Owl:
- Pet Peeves:
- Favorite Sin: Which of the 7 deadly sins does the character do often?
- Favorite Virtue: Which virtue does the character possess most?
- Ruled by Heart or Mind:
- Motivated by:
- Everyday Speech: Words or phrases the character often says
- Life Motto:
Character health bio
This section is all about your character’s health. It covers everything from mental and physical health, to major surgeries, to allergies.
If certain questions don’t pertain to your character, feel free to skip them. Or, if anything needs to be added, do so. Make this section as relevant to your character as it needs to be.
These are the health questions for the character template:
- Energy Level: Is your character more active, or sluggish generally?
- Memory Level: Does your character often forget people’s names, or do they have a photographic memory?
- Disabilities: Is your character impaired in any way?
- Phobias: What is your character very scared of?
- Addictions: Does your character have a smoking addiction, or maybe an addiction to social media?
- General aptitude: Are they fast learners? Do they have poor problem solving skills?
- Mental Strengths: Is your character mentally tough?
- Mental Weakness: In what aspects is your character mentally weak?
- Physical Strengths:
- Physical Weakness:
- Past Illnesses: Major
- Stability: Is your character emotionally stable?
Now it’s time to cover what your character does for a living – or how they spend the majority of their time. Is your character making a living doing a job they hate, but attending night school to get their dream job?
A person’s choice of career, or their type of dream job, says a lot about that person’s qualities and interests, or lack thereof.
These are the career questions for the character template:
- Job Title:
- Career Type:
- Work Ethic:
- Job History:
- Political Party/Organizations:
- Volunteer Work:
- Dream job:
- What job would s/he do poorly at:
- Career satisfaction:
Everyone has their likes and dislikes, from books to activities to the time of day. By answering all of these questions about your character, you’ll be able to build up a person that’s realistic and believable.
These are the personal preferences questions for your character's bio:
- Favorite Foods:
- Favorite Drinks:
- Favorite Movie:
- Favorite Music:
- Favorite Book:
- Favorite Place:
- Favorite activities:
- Favorite time of day:
- What makes them happy?
- What makes them sad?
- Favorite animal:
- Loves to do:
- Hates to do:
- Inspired by:
Family life of character
Let’s face it – family, or a lack thereof, shapes a person. The same is true about your character.
This section is all about your character’s family life, from their parents to extended family, and even pets.
By knowing the family your character came from, you’ll also learn a lot about your character and why they are the way they are.
These are the family life questions for the character bio:
- Raised by:
- Parent Status:
- Mother’s Name:
- Mother’s Age:
- Mother’s Background:
- Father’s Name:
- Father’s Age:
- Father’s Background:
- Relationship with Mother:
- Relationship with Father:
- Parenting Type:
- Only Child? First Born, Middle Child, or Youngest?
- # of Siblings:
- Relationship with Siblings:
- Do they have kids of their own, or do they want them in the future?
- Extended Family: Insert any details about aunts/uncles, grandparents, or cousins here.
- Family Relations: Are they generally close-knit or distant? How has family life shaped the character? Do they have any sibling rivalries, or are they best friends with a particular sibling?
- What they like most about their family:
- What they dislike most about their family:
Character bio relationships
In this section, you’ll be answering all the questions that have to do with your character’s relationships – from friends to lovers to enemies.
Think about all of the influential relationships your character has been involved with. Each person, and each relationship, is different, so keep that in mind as you fill out this section.
Each of us become involved with people that teach us lessons, whether these individuals stay in our lives long or not. The same is true for a well-developed character!
These are the relationship questions for the character bio template:
- Best Friend(s):
- Worst Enemy:
- Many acquaintances or few close friends?
- Sexual Preference:
- Relationship Status:
- Marital Status:
- First Love:
- Current Love or Aspiring Love:
- Notable Ex-Lovers: Are there any exes that influenced the character, either positively or negatively?
- Top 3 Loved Ones: Who does your character love best in terms of their friends and relations?
- Top 3 Disliked Ones: Who does your character dislike in terms of enemies and acquaintances?
- Who knows the character best?
- Who is closest to your character?
Character template life stages
It’s time to cover your character’s life stages. If your character is an adult in your story, then you’ll want to fill out quick details on each question in this section. If your character hasn’t reached a certain stage yet, just skip that part.
For each life stage, you can write a few sentences to describe the overall time period for the character. Don’t feel the need to list out every single thing that happened to your character in a certain life stage – unless you want to.
These are the life stage questions for the development of your character:
- Childhood: What was their childhood generally like?
- Did anything significant happen?
- Adolescence: What were their teenage years like? Did anything significant happen?
- Young Adult: What were they like as a young adult? Did anything significant happen?
- Coming of Age: When did they really grow up and come into themselves?
- Moments/Experiences that shaped them: List any important experiences here.
- How have they changed as a person throughout their life: Were they raised as a spoiled only child, but later became a Buddhist monk?
- Major regrets: List any major regrets the character has from their life.
- Biggest life lessons learned: Did they learn not to take life for granted when their best friend died?
Next, we’ll go through the questions that will help show us how your character thinks about the world and perceives things.
This is important because it helps shape your character’s mindset, especially if you are narrating the character’s inner thoughts, and dialogue.
Filling out this section will also help you as you practice writing in your character's point-of-view, and will give you a sense of your character's thought process, and how their mindset affects their actions.
These are the perspective questions for the character bio:
- Religious Beliefs:
- Core Values:
- Morals: What does s/he believe is evil? What does s/he believe is good?
- Risks Worth Taking: What would your character risk their life for?
Character's story development
Now it’s time to answer all of the questions that have more to do with your character’s thoughts, actions, and role within your storyline.
You need to know what’s driving your character in the story, and what’s getting in their way. Answer each one of these questions as it relates to your story.
For example, when describing the character’s main goal, don’t answer it in terms of their entire life’s main goal – think of the main goal in terms of your story. Maybe your character’s main goal is to live without regrets. But how does that relate to your story? You need to make it more specific to your plot. Maybe your character’s main goal within the context of your story is to help hide persecuted children, even if it means death and dishonor.
These are the story development questions for your character's development:
- Important milestones: What important things will happen to the character in your story?
- Achievements: What will they achieve?
- Failures: What will they fail at?
- Lifestyle: Describe your character’s lifestyle as it pertains to your story’s time period or setting.
- Character Traits: List out traits your character possesses during your story.
- Culture: What culture do they identify with?
- Main Goal:
- Minor Goal:
- Biggest mistakes:
- Life lessons:
- Dream Life:
- Worst Nightmare:
- Favorite Memories:
- Least favorite memories:
- Things they want in life:
- Things they don’t want in life:
- What obstacles are currently in their way?
- Any secrets:
- Personal Hero:
- Internal Conflict:
- External Conflict:
- What others think of them:
- What they think of themselves:
- What they wish they could change:
- What they wish they could have:
- What gets them fired up:
- Risks worth taking:
- Things they take for granted:
- What inspires them:
- What they have doubts about:
- What makes them feel alive:
- What makes them want to do better:
- What do they want to be remembered for?
- How will the character change?
Now that you’ve quickly read through each section of the character template, your brainstorming wheels should be turning as you start to hone in on certain questions about your character that you hadn’t thought of before.
Once you’re ready to start, you can use the blank template below to fill out for each one of your main characters. Remember – keep a copy of your character template sheets nearby for reference as you begin writing!
The Character Template
So there you have it – your very own comprehensive character bio template. Remember, it doesn’t matter what genre you are writing about. Every book should have well-developed characters that come alive through using writing strategies, techniques, and devices.
At the heart of every story, is a believable character that readers are engaged with and connected to. To create that character, you want to make them as realistic as possible, and you can do that with the help of a character bio template.