Origins, Demise, and in Between
While we don’t need every last detail of where a character came from, it helps to know their original continent, at the least, and preferably a kingdom, too. The latter might wait until we’ve invented more and decided on the governments and quality of life there, as discussed in detail in Creating Places (The Art of World Building, #2). Decide whether they still live there, have taken up residence elsewhere, or became a wanderer. Create a quick reason for their choice, which may have been influenced by familial concerns, such as keeping relatives safe by going far away and lying about origins. Or if the government made life horrible for people, they might have left. Or maybe life was wonderful and they left to help those less fortunate.
Our choices will impact much about their worldview, assuming we’ve created cultures as detailed in Cultures and Beyond (The Art of World Building, #3). The society they came from will have beliefs and customs, and while the latter is not hugely important, the former is. There are basic ideas about how life should be lived, such as how different genders are treated. This is more important for characters that we intend to use as more than a reference, but if the Kingdom of Norn viewed woman as little more than sex objects and our male hero is from there, this would impact how well he gets along with people in other cultures that differ. Is this the reason he couldn’t get along with peers and worked alone, for example?
Once we’ve decided where they came from, decide where they’ve lived or even if they just kept moving as if in search of something. Having multiple sovereign powers they’ve been influenced by helps create personality. This is another thing we needn’t worry about too much at first (if at all) unless planning to use their residence in some way, such as a story where people end up there. Their home might have booby traps, whether mundane, technological, or magical. In SF, surveillance from a distance is likely, but we can still do this in fantasy with spells or magic devices. Decide how simple or majestic their home is. Personality will figure into this, but so will the fame heaped upon them and whether they’ve monetarily benefited from their exploits or not.
If the character is dead, decide where the remains and any special items they possessed are. Is the body intact? Is it ashes? Is that grave actually empty but few if any know it? Maybe their grave is guarded, revered, or haunted. Their items can be buried with them or hidden. Maybe the items are lost, or just believed lost, and someone secretly has them, though it can be more interesting if more than one person has the various items, especially if they are needed together.
If they’re still alive, where are they living now? What are they doing with their time? Are they hunted and living with lots of protection, or are they celebrated and afraid old enemies will destroy those they love? Are they imprisoned? Living world figures can be fun, though maybe nothing beats undead ones.