• Anthony Hett

How to write a short film - Character bibles

Hello and welcome to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.

In today‘s blog post I will be looking at how to write a Character bible, concentrating on what I believe should be included in a character bible.

A character bible is a like a character breakdown, which I discussed in my last post, but instead of a brief one paragraph description of your character, it is a more in-depth account.

Unlike a character breakdown, I don't think that it is overly important to complete a character bible for the characters in a short films, I personally don’t. However, I would always take the time to complete a character bible for the main characters in a feature film or television series.

After all, the more prepared you are and the more you know the characters before you start, the less editing you will have to do to your script.

So what should you include in your character bible?

Here are my top five tips on what to include:

1. Who the character is within the story. So ask yourself, what is their role. Are they the protagonist, the antagonist, the love interest, the love rival, the side kick, the mentor. Make it clear who they are and why they are important to the story that you are trying to tell.

2. Background information. Who they are as a person, what is their personality like and what made them the way they are? Where are they from? What is their family like? What is their ethnical and/or religious background? What is their education and employment history? Everyone has a backstory and your characters should have one too.

3. Habits and mannerisms. In order to understand your character better and also to set them apart from other character within your story, it is a good idea to have a good grasp on their habits and mannerisms. Do they prefer individual or team sports, what is their morning routine and what does it say about them as a person. Do they move or speak in a certain way. Do they have any favourite sayings that they repeat.

4. Conflict responses. Entertaining stories often have a conflict at their core. It is therefore important to understand how different characters might react differently to a certain situation. It might also be helpful to think about how a character responds in a situation when another character responds differently to them. If one character sees another start to panic, does this change their response, do they try to help calm them, do they get annoyed with them or do they then also start to panic.

5. Physical details. I personally think that it is less important to think about physical attributes than it is to explore who they are as a person mentally and emotionally. I would include some physical traits in a character bible, however, I would only do so if they are important to the story in some way. For example, they have a scar and a backstory to go with it. Or they are strong and tough looking but in the story they are emotionally vulnerable, which then comes as a surprise to the audience.

So those are my top five tips on what to include when writing a Character bible. I hope that you find them helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments below and share this post with anyone who you think might find it helpful. Be sure to check out my YouTube videos and previous blog posts, and don't forget that there are new videos and blog posts every Wednesday at 9am (gmt). In my next blog and video, I will be discussing Character bibles.