Writing a role biography: structure, outline& example

Writing a role biography: structure, outline& example

The role biography comes from German and theater lessons. It is a certain way to work out a non-real character, for example from a play. Working out means getting to know the character of the character and finding out if this character has any peculiarities or peculiarities. If you study a character in a play or a book in this way, you can better understand the decisions the character makes in the book or play.

The procedure is to pick out all the details of the role to be studied from the work. In doing this, you really try to bring out everything that is revealed about the role. It doesn’t matter if it concerns the past, the future or current events. It can be a great help to first create a profile, a characterization and or a description of the person. This then contains important information that can be used to create the role biography.

When doing this, it is important to note that there is an important difference. A characterization or a description of a person is a text written by one person about another. Let us assume that the role to be described has a dog, then it says here: "She has a dog.". In the role biography, you should slip into the role and imagine yourself to describe. So the sentence here would be like this.". So we become the character and tell something about ourselves.

The guide through the role biography

Since there are points that are important in every role biography and should always be addressed, a guideline is very helpful. If you follow this guideline, you cannot forget anything essential.

First comes general information of the figure to be worked on. Here we answer the following questions:

  • – What is the name of the character? First name, last name, are there second names or titles
  • – What gender is the character? Man, woman, something more unusual
  • – How old is the character?
  • – Where was the character born and where does he/she live now?? An important question, because there are different mentalities. For example, someone who lived in China for the first 15 years of their life and now lives in Paris will behave differently than someone who lived in New York for only 15 years before coming to Paris.
  • – Which nationality has the figure?
  • – Has the character learned a profession? If so, which?

Now we already know a lot about the role. Now we come to the externals, which can also reveal a lot.

  • – appearance, such as stature, height, weight, color of hair and eyes, length of hair and so on
  • – clothing, like what does the character like to wear or what brands does she like
  • – are there any special identifying marks on the character, such as scars, birthmarks, tattoos, or the like
  • – Other abnormalities, such as disabilities, physical ailments, prosthetics,…

Now we already know a lot about the person. We know the personal data, their appearance and physical characteristics. Now it gets really interesting. What makes the character? What are their views, beliefs or attitudes:

  • – Moral values, what does the role think is right, what is wrong??
  • – how intelligent is the figure? Here the level of education, degrees, general and special knowledge become a topic
  • – How does the role see her own life?
  • – Does the role have likes or dislikes?
  • – What are the fears of the role? Are there fears? Does she care about something or someone?
  • – What preferences does the character have, what does he not like?
  • – Is there something that the character finds very easy or particularly difficult?

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Something that still reveals a lot about a role is its language:

  • – How does the character speak? Examples: fast, slow, quiet, loud, hectic, unclear
  • – How does the character express himself? Examples: simple, with foreign words, partly in foreign languages, like on the street,…
  • – are there conspicuities in the speech behavior, like she likes to lecture, she is cheeky, she is reserved, etc.?.

Here it is important that everything fits or that what does not fit can be explained. Actually, a character who is educated should express himself accordingly. Or the other way around, is it likely that an uneducated character is expressing himself in an unchosen way and with many technical words.

One more point to conclude the character’s appearance. Is there anything noticeable about the role that has not received attention so far? This could affect the language. The part could stutter, speak a dialect or have an accent. Is there anything conspicuous in the course of movement or facial expressions. Does the character perhaps often stroke his hair or pinch his mouth when concentrating?. Is there a tick, like all cups have to be in the cupboard with the handle to the right? Does the character perhaps struggle with a mental health problem, such as hallucinations or delusions?

What history does the character have? What is interesting to know from the past. Here, depending on the age of the character, points come into play, such as the origin, parents and siblings, education, former friends, relationships with people from the past, first love, were there special experiences, perhaps even a trauma?

After the past comes the present. Here the current life situation is meant. Is there a relationship or a family, how are things going at work, what is the financial situation and what are the hobbies?

Is there any information about the future? Here there are hopes, there are desires? What are the dreams, plans, and goals of the character. These can go in all possible directions, such as job, family or financial aspects.

Then there is another interesting area, the social relations of the character. Is the role integrated in a community? These could be different communities, such as clubs, locally, or perhaps religiously. Are there other characters in the play or book who are not sympathetic to the character? Or is the character popular everywhere? Whereby one does not exclude the other. Does the character have special characteristics? Is she perhaps politically or socially active?

Do not be sad if not all points of this guideline can answer. It is quite common that not all questions in the book or play are answered. The author probably asks himself the same questions when writing and only includes in the book or play what seems important for a well-rounded plot. The guideline is also intended more as food for thought and can be added to at any time.

How to proceed in writing the biography of the role?

All the important facts about the character we have collected through the guideline. Now there are a few rules to follow when writing.

The role biography is a monologue. This means there is no one who tells everything. The character himself tells everything from his point of view. Descriptive adjectives and narrative features are avoided. Nevertheless, the role biography is well formulated and is not limited only to keywords. The text is written in the present tense, that is the present. At the same time, the role biography should follow the character in terms of expression. This means the biography is written the way the character expresses himself in the book or play. So if the character speaks simply, there should not be so many foreign words and complicated expressions in the biography. This also includes peculiarities. For example, if the character likes to use English terms, this should be reflected in the role biography. The same applies, of course, if the character likes to use certain rhetorical stylistic devices or calls other linguistic peculiarities her own.

Role biography does not have to follow a fixed system. However, it should make sense and not just list the points in order. A good guide it to consider how you would introduce yourself to a stranger. Probably would start with a greeting and then continue narrating in one direction. There are no rules regarding length either. To some extent, the length is determined by the narrator himself or herself. Since it is a form of instruction, there is usually a prescribed length, the average for German classes is half a page to a full page.

An example of the beginning of a role biography

Here is the beginning of the role biography of William Tell given as an example:
"Greetings, stranger! My name is Wilhelm. I am an alpine hunter, like my father once was, whom I followed into this profession. I am a simple man, but always free, and I provide for my family and accomplish the bare necessities with the work of my hands, And even though life has drawn me and been burdensome at times, I place it in the hands of God and trust that it will turn out well…"

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