The best books offer characters that feel like real people, characters that are so fleshed out and thorough that you feel as if you really know them. But creating those types of characters is easier said than done!

Once you sit down to start drafting a new short story or novel, you may find that your characters are feeling lackluster at best, or entirely dull at worst. How can you fix this? No matter what stage of the writing process you may be in, creating a character biography using a character bio template can be a great help.

What is a character biography?

A character biography is a reference sheet that tells you everything you might need to know about your character, for any scene that you write. A character bio includes information on your character’s background, personality, day-to-day life, appearance, and more. While not all this information will make it into your story, it’s still useful for plotting your character’s arcs.

Why is having a character biography important?

If you consider yourself more of a pantser than a plotter (i.e., the type of writer who goes into drafting flying by the seat of their pants versus the type of writer who plots and outlines their work ahead of time), then you may wonder if you really need a character biography—especially when you look at character bio templates that ask you for far more information than you might think you need (do you really need to know your main character’s childhood pet’s nickname?).

Before you start writing your actual story, practice writing and spending time with your characters.

However, no matter your drafting style, a character biography can be an invaluable resource. The more information you have at the ready, the more well-rounded your characters will be. You might even find that having a character bio template as you write will help you unravel other writing issues that go beyond flat characters, like plot holes or character or story arcs that don’t quite arc.

Things to keep in mind before you write your character biography

Before you write your character biography (using our handy template below), there’s one big thing you need to think about: each character’s purpose within the story.

Often, writers will begin building a character first, thinking about things like personality and appearance and motives—and then wait until they’ve developed this character before actually giving the character a purpose within the story.

This can be problematic for a few reasons, but primarily because you may end up trying to force characters into roles where they don’t belong.

Before creating any character bio or filling out any character template, consider why you need this character in the first place. How are they going to pull their weight?

Think beyond the very baseline role that they might play, as, for example, a main character, love interest, antagonist, or the comedic relief. Think about what they need to be and what they need to offer the plot and your other characters. What makes them so essential to the plot that they absolutely cannot be cut from the story or book?

Once you nail down why this particular character must exist in your fictional universe and exactly what they offer the plot and main character that makes it so, you can begin filling in the more extraneous details that might not matter quite as much, such as basic info and appearance. On the contrary, once you decide on your character’s purpose, you may just find that those details aren’t so extraneous and are, in fact, all the more meaningful.

How to write a character bio (using a template)

When you download your character bio template and begin filling it out, whether you print it and write out all the details by hand or type everything into the Word doc, you’ll notice there are a few details that you need to include.

Basic info

This is likely all information that you have stored away in your brain somewhere, so getting it down on the page should be no problem.

You likely already know all the basic info about your character—now’s your chance to add more detail.

Think all the information that anyone might be able to find out about your character if they either knew them as a brief acquaintance or looked them up online and discovered a social media profile.

This might include things like:

  • Nationality

  • Religious beliefs

  • Home town and current place of residence

  • Job title

  • Marital status

  • Economic status

  • Core values

  • Life goals

If there are any stand-out likes or dislikes, or pet peeves, you can also list those here. For example, does your character prefer to only communicate via snail mail, or does your character dislike chocolate with a passion? List it here!

Appearance and physical characteristics

Think not just of your character’s physical appearance, body type, and personal style, but also how their appearance impacts how they act and how they’re treated.

How does your character’s appearance play into the character’s traits and the character’s story?

Do others approach them differently than they might another character, all because of appearance? Does your character like their appearance? Why or why not? How does this impact how they interact with others?


For many characters, health—or the lack thereof—plays a major role in their decision-making and motives. Think about your character’s health and the areas where they might be struggling.

Does your character drink regularly or have any addictions? Bad habits? Does your character smoke? Were they in any sort of traumatic accidents that have made their health a challenge?


Think about your character’s life up until the point were your story begins. What was it like?

Did they have a good or bad childhood? How were their teenage years? Are there any major changes between the way they grew up and the way they live now (i.e., changes in religion, place of residence, best friends, or social or economic status)? How does that influence their behavior and beliefs now?

In real life, background heavily influences the way a person acts and the choices they make, so the same should apply to your characters.


What is your character’s relationship with the other people within the story? How do they feel about the other characters? This includes romantic relationships but also those with friends, family, and work colleagues.

Explore how these relationships and all the emotions that go with them impact how your character behaves.

Personality, mental characteristics, and emotional characteristics

What is your character’s personality? Are they shy? Hot-headed? Temperamental? Stubborn? Does your character prefer being around people just like them, or do they love variety?

When building your character profile, think of both your character’s emotional strengths, as well as your character’s emotional flaws.

Your character’s personality will directly play into their thorn, which leads us to…

Character thorns

A character thorn is something that’s stuck in your character’s side. It’s always there, paining them, nagging at them, making their life a little bit worse.

A character thorn is the thorn in your character’s side that propels them to action.

This thorn will eventually propel them to some sort of action and they’ll eventually learn to either live with, or remove, their thorn, but it needs to be there at the start of their fictional journey.

A character thorn could be a bad relationship with parents, a spouse that always outshines them, or a belief that they’ll never be quite good enough. Whatever it is, though, it’s something they can’t ignore.


Every character needs a desire. What do they want? Or, better yet, what do they want so badly that they’re going to end up going after it over the course of your story or novel?

This desire should make sense according to the other information that you’ve already inputted into your character bio template, such as background, thorn, personality, etc.

For example, a character who grew up in an impoverished household with an emotionally neglectful parent, who doted on their other siblings first and foremost, might desire a high-paying career that will allow them to outshine their sibling while also buying their impoverished parents a new house, thus winning their favor and proving themself better than the sibling.

Character development

Your character’s desire and thorn should play into your character’s arc and development. How will they change over the course of your story?

Consider writing up a brief description about your character’s existence at the start of the story—what their life looks like, both externally and internally—and then another brief description about where you’d like them to end up at the end of the story.

Mistakes to avoid when building character bios

As you consider the above details, make sure you avoid some of the most common mistakes that writers are likely to commit when building out, and then using, a character profile.

A character bio template includes lots of information, but you don’t need to put all those details in the template.

Using every single detail in a character bio template

This is the big one.

Yes, you’ll have a lot of valuable information in your character bio template. However, you don’t want to merely dump all of that information into your story as soon as you introduce a new character.

The reader doesn’t need—or want—to know all that information at once. They want to gradually learn that information as they get to know your character, over the course of the story.

Don’t dump everything about your characters’ appearances onto the page at once, either. Doing so can make a passage feel stilted and awkward.

After all, when you meet a person for the first time, you don’t automatically think about every color they’re wearing, every brand of clothing they have on, their hair color, eye color, weight, and face shape, all at once. Instead, you maybe notice a few stand-out features until something gives you reason to notice another detail of their appearance.

Do the same when you begin writing a character’s physical description.

Adding details that don’t make sense

Every part of your character’s life should make sense. Their personality, their decisions, their lifestyle—it’s all a result of things that have happened throughout their life.

Don’t pick personality traits or background information at random. With every character detail, ask yourself, why? Truly think about why your character is the way that they are, and ensure every detail is believable.

Does every character need a character bio?

You’ll find that many characters within your story don’t need a full character bio. Minor characters that only play a small role within your story don’t need to be fleshed out to this degree.

However, it’s advisable to create character bios for all of your main characters, and also your secondary characters, including love interests, villains and other characters whose actions heavily influence your main character and/or the plot of the story.

Remember—every character in a story, no matter how large or small their role, has a background, motives and goals. Sometimes, knowing all this and more can help you make the writing decisions that result in believable characters and plot lines.

Want great characters? Use a template to create a biography for each character.

The Scribophile character bio template

Need more help?

Download our character bio template for an easy, fill-in-the-blanks approach to character template building.

You’ll still need to thoroughly consider every aspect of your characters’ personalities, lives, backgrounds, motives, and more, but, with our character bio template and comprehensive list of questions, you’ll be that much closer to uncovering all the need-to-know details to bring your characters to life.