There it is.
The blank page you so dread. Her name is there, in bright bold letters at the top, and nothing else. Stephanie Ross, the letters say, as if mocking you. The name is there, but where is the rest? Where is that backstory you so craved? Where is her personality hiding?
As you scroll down the page, more and more of these insidious names taunt you, daring you to write their biographies. You must write five of these things by midnight, and it’s already nine o’clock!
Picking up your coffee mug, you take a hearty swig. It’s going to be a long night.
Welcome, friends and foes, to phnx’s marvellous character speedwriting class! Please note that this is not about how to write a character, but how to write a bunch of character biographies fast. Before you attempt this, you should have a general idea of what you want your characters to be. This is your go-to guide for that awful moment when you realize you’re screwed and have people depending on you, or when you want to get ahead on bios before real life gets crazy. Behold, enjoy, revel! With any luck you’ll learn a thing or two.
Oh, and PLEASE NOTE! This will be more helpful to people who like to write longer bios. It will help someone who writes, say, two paragraphs each, too, but it’s more directed toward those murderous nights when you’ve got a million lengthy biographies and no time or will to do them.
Alright, first things first: this is from my perspective, meaning this is all stuff that works for me. I can’t guarantee it’ll work for you, too. Hopefully something will be helpful to you, though!
When you want to write a lot of characters in a short amount of time, you want to prepare yourself. Writing for speed is very different then regular bio writing, so some of the stuff I may say might surprise you:
You might be asking “how do my thoughts factor into it?” Truthfully, how you think before you start is a huge part of it. Don’t let yourself be too frazzled. I always like to call it my “writing place” when I’m about to get into the zone, so when I tell my friends I’m in my “writing place” they know not to bug me. I make sure nothing is stressing me out or distracting me and call up all the ideas for the character(s) I want to write beforehand. I get comfortable and usually get a drink, because once I get started I ain’t gonna stop.
I listen to music when I need creativity and have a lot of time to write a character, but never when I’m speedwriting. While music will get the ball rolling when you’re feeling uncreative, it will only serve as a distraction when you’re trying to write fast. You know how it is. A song will come on that you aren’t quite feeling, so you stop to change it, or a song you really love comes on and you jam for a moment or two. Both of these things will break your concentration and, chances are, it’ll take you a few minutes or more to really get it back. If you must have music, try to make it instrumental, that way it’s not too distracting. You may choose to listen to an action movie soundtrack if you really want to get yourself going, which I’ve done once or twice.
Go somewhere quiet. Along with the music, there will be other things going on that can distract you. If you’re not good at focusing with other things going on around you, find a space where you can focus and not be disrupted, because momentum and concentration are integral to speedwriting characters. Also, do not let tumblr distract you. Log out if you need to. Same with facebook.
What do I mean by this? I mean laying everything out so it’s easy to just write bio after bio after bio. We all know that, after the character’s in your head, writing the bio out is the biggest hurdle. This section will show you how to set up your page/drafts for success.
In order to write bios fast, you need to know who the character is already. Make sure you’ve been thinking about them already—you’ve named them, you know their age, their job, and the basics of their personality. When you’re away from the computer try to get to know them a little bit, that way the bio will just fly from your fingers.
Next, you need to write this stuff down. Say your bio format looks like this:
Name | Age | Job | Faceclaim
Brief personality description
You want to write, maybe, five characters in a few hours (or twenty in a day, even), so you need to create posts/save in a doc for all of the characters and fill out that info, that way when you go to write the bios the basic information will be at your fingertips, like so:
Stephanie Ross | 22 | Interplanetary concubine | Oprah Winfrey
- As an interplanetary concubine, Stephanie Ross is always travelling. The money’s good, though, so she sticks with it.
- Most of Stephanie’s thoughts revolve around money. How to save it, how to spend it, how to get more of it when she should be getting less. As such, she doesn’t have many friends, but she’s a bit of a loner so she’s okay with that.
I already have a general idea of the character in mind because I’ve written that. Before I start with the bio, I’ll review that blurb and think: “Why is she so frugal? How did she become a concubine?” That gives me a basic idea of what I should be writing, so a skeleton of a bio is already forming in my brain. You want to do this for each bio you plan to write before you get to writing it, that way the concepts are already floating around in your brain and you’ll be ready when you get to it.
Make sure you have the format of their history itself all planned out, too. While I’m not a big fan of bios that spoonfeed you information, if you do “early history/big event/current history/personality” or whatever, stick to it. That’ll be your bio format, so keep it in mind before and during your writing. If you don’t know where to start, you’ll just sit there!
You want to make sure you have a goal when you start writing. For example, when I write bios for treadsoftly, the name is on the top line of the page and I try to make the whole bio, blurbs and all, fit the entire page down to the last line. That’s my goal. If I start getting discouraged, I just see how close I am to the bottom of the page and convince myself to press on. If you don’t set a goal, you may start losing heart halfway through and your momentum will be gone. You need momentum to really get ‘em done!
Actually Getting it Done
This is the hard part. This is when you’ve got your characters all planned out, your coffee at your side, your bladder emptied, and your mind prepared. I can only offer one piece of advice:
Just do it!
All you have to do is do it. It’s all there: the mental and physical state, the character concepts, the determination. Now you just need to follow through. Don’t stop. Look at that page and write. Every time you accomplish the goal you can take a short break, but then you’ve gotta come back and do it again. Just crank ‘em out,one by one. Write, write, write.Don’t let anything stop you, because the only thing that separates you and your character goal is you.
After the Fact
When you’re writing in high volumeand you’ve really focused your concentration properly, you’re probably not going to notice yourself until afterward. Afterward you may be grumpy and your creativity may be depleted, so here’s how to deal with that:
Unless you absolutely must get your characters out this instant, don’t proofread now. Although I’m lucky and my writing generally comes out somewhat coherent even at high speed, there are many people who aren’t. Chances are you’ve got a wonky sentence or two that you’re going to need to revise, but do not worry about that yet. Give yourself a chance to rest or you’ll just end up being frustrated. Go back on tumblr for a little while. Don’t stress yourself out.
Again, don’t do something high-stress immediately afterward, because if you really were pressed for time enough to need this, chances are you’re a bit grumpy now. Just take it easy, do all those mindless little preparation things like tagging posts, etc. Some people find writing replies relaxing, so do that. Just don’t give yourself a brain meltdown by trying to do something else high-stress.
This guide can also apply in part to cranking out ideas for characters andcranking out paras at high speed, so don’t be afraid to take what I’ve said and apply itelsewhere. I’ll be doing separate guides for those, but you can still use this to help you until then. Hopefully I showed you some useful ideas that will help you to not stare at a blank page for twenty minutes. If you need any additional help you know I’m always around!
Let me know what you agreed with, disagreed with, found helpful, etc. I’m curious to know.
P.S: Oprah the 22-year-old interplanetary concubine. Awwwww yeahhhhhhh.