A goal of writing is to evolve our characters. If they are the same at the end of their adventure as they were at the beginning then we missed something. Even if they go back home, there needs to be a change. We call it an evolution or development, but know that it isn’t always an advancement. Some characters may end an adventure in a bad position, but they have changed. That is the point. Now, how can character biographies help with this?
Again, we’re talking about pre-writing planning here. So, if you aren’t going to do that then this probably won’t help you. It’s possible to do it in your head, but that doesn’t guarantee that things will stick. With a biography, you can have permanent notes in regards to where you want the character to go. You define their role in the story and show where they have come from. It’s the basis of everything that is about to happen and lead to an evolution. Without this foundation, you might be working on shaky ground and the evolution can be clunky or unnatural. Key word there is ‘might’ because some people can keep it all together or have tools to help with that.
It’s up to the author to decide how specific to be with these parts of a biography. Some will give a general idea or a variety of choices. Others will write it out to the letter and never stray from the concept. Depending on the length of your story or series, it’s difficult to pull off that last option. You may have to go in stages or state the changes in each book. For example, I had to make notes for Mab’s evolution in War of Nytefall. I couldn’t go into details because I didn’t know exactly how I would do her addiction storyline. All I could do was make note of how bad it was and if people knew about it within each book. The rest had to be developed in real-time since evolution is partially influenced by interacting with other characters. This means the biography can only bring you so far and may work best as guidelines.
Of course, you don’t have to go along with your initial idea. Things always change when you start writing. A better evolution may come to mind or the original plan can go against the main plot of the story. You could have intersecting evolutions that negate or damage all characters involved too. Never think that these biographies are written in stone because they are merely a jumping point. Sticking to this can harm the evolutions, which damages both the characters and overall story. Audiences connect with your heroes and villains, so you need their growth to feel natural. An idea that you come up with at first may work, but it will probably need some level of tweaking as you move along. This is an inevitable part of author life.
So, what do you think about biographies and getting a general idea of a character evolution?