Character Development Tips for Actors – Compiling the Character Autobiography

by on March 7th, 2015
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I remember sitting in one of my very first professional acting classes. While I have taken classes in school, this was the first class where the acting coach was once a working actor and has now turned his attention to assisting beginner performers.

Excited, I sat in my chair clinging to every word he said. After the initial greetings and overview of the course, he began discussing the importance of character development. One of the primary segments he spoke on was compiling a character autobiography.

As an actor, you must uncover the history and personality of your character as a real person, and the best way to accomplish this is through compiling an autobiography.

Like many other processes of acting, compiling a character autobiography is a highly personalized experience; however, I have included several tips to help guide you through this exploration.

Analyzing the Script

The first step in compiling a character autobiography is to analyze the script. Within the pages of this story, you will find clues about not only the personality of your character, but also his history. Typically, you will have to read-between-the-lines in order to garner information regarding your character’s history; however, make notes of any important information your character says or what other characters make reference to when speaking about your character.

Personal History, Relationships, Self-Perceptions and Current State of Being

While a character autobiography can be as detailed as you wish, and typically the more detailed the biography is the better, there are several foundational points you must uncover.

The first of these is the personal history of your character. While I’ve written an entire article about uncovering the personal history of a character (which may be found in my author profile), you may uncover your character’s history by carefully analyzing the script and using foundational pointers; however, expect to use your imagination when scoring the history of your character.

Next, you must make a detailed account of the relationships your character has with friends, family, etc. As in real life, these relationships play a large role in the personality and demeanor of your character.

Uncovering your character’s self-perceptions will help when it comes time to making physical and emotional choices. How your character walks, talks, sits and thinks is all based on his self-perception. Use your imagination and become as detailed as possible. Write this section of the autobiography in first person as if you “are” the character.

Lastly, you must uncover the current state of being for your character. This process will allow you to help connect his past with his present. Where is he? What does he desire within his present state? How does his current mindset shape his actions for reaching his future goals?

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