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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Acrostic Character Bio

Now that you've gotten to know your characters a bit more, you'll need an easy way to keep track of all this new information.  After all, if you're writing on-the-go, you can't exactly tote around stacks of pages with character dossiers.  This is where the Acrostic Bio-in-a-Nutshell comes in.  This technique forces you to choose the most important details of your character and organizes it in a compact way.

First a word on acrostics.  I got the idea for this exercise from acrostic poems written by Lewis Carroll, in which the first letter of each line spells the name of the person to whom the poem is dedicated.  It occurred to me that you could use the same technique to organize information in a character dossier, using the character's name as the basic structure.  Here follows an example of a character bio for one of the character's I've worked with for a story that is now in press.

Lucy Marie Watson

Loyal to her friends
Unaware her best friend (Jake) has a crush on her
Crush on Ralph (leader of her group of friends)
Young (age 11, 6th grade)

Moral compass of the group
Always wears hair in a pony tail
Incredibly close to her dad
Efficient (plans ahead)

Willing to take risks and break rules if it's for a good reason
Two sisters: Danielle (older) and Caroline (younger)
Smart (smartest kid in her group, though the boys would never admit it)
Obedient (usually) so when she breaks rules, she feels guilty
No idea she what to do about her crush (not even aware she has one)

Notice how most of the information is focused on the interpersonal relationships (not a lot of appearance or demographic detail).  For Lucy the relationships were the most important part of her character development so the acrostic bio reflects that.  If your character has a unique appearance or a job that is central to his/her character, then those things are likely to be the ones that pop up on the acrostic.

I like to write my acrostic bio-in-a-nutshell on an index card.  That way I can carry it with me in my notebook and have it right at my fingertips when I need it.

Homework: Choose one of your characters (preferably one you've worked with this week) and write an acrostic bio that reflects who that character is at their core.

Then tell me, how has your study of character gone this week?  Discover something new about a character or two?  Anything surprise you?


Jenn said...

Cool exercise! It's been fun getting to know my characters a little better. Now to just figure out how to incorporate some of these new character insights into the story...

Gabriela Pereira said...

Glad you're enjoying DIY MFA Jenn! Don't worry, "story" is going to be our weekly theme for next week. :)

Misa Buckley said...

Oh, this will be interesting!

K.V. Briar said...

Yay, I'm caught up now! These are great lesson's Gabi :)

J.C. Martin said...

This is an awesome idea! And I've managed to (kinda) summarise my entire story in my protagonist's name!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I love this exercise. It's such a convenient way to keep your character profiles with you when you're on the go!

MissM said...

Index card... great idea. Time for a stop at CVS!

Kerryn Angell said...

I love how these exercises play with things we did as kids. It adds such great fun to the whole exercise and really helps take the pressure off. Plus I love that it's an easy way to keep track of character info in such a succinct way.

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