I’m used to defining the story of a life. Not with each character I create, but with each book. There’s one main character; the entire book becomes a kind of exoskeleton for the character within. The other characters are reactions, motifs, variations, opinions–all of them filtered and refiltered through the main character’s perspective. If I were to focus on the same events through a different character–not just switching POV for a few chapters–it would necessarily be an almost unrecognizably different book.
For example I’m working on a book in which the main character’s primary sense is sound. She lives in a world of sound, even though she doesn’t “hear” background music or anything on a continuous basis. It changes the way she processes the setting she’s in, her opinions of people, her definition of what good and bad are. She reminds me that I did some sound design in college; I’m starting to back up and see the world the way she does, drawing from my life experiences in order to be able to recreate hers. We have some areas in common; I’m trying to refresh those so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to write her.
People do that. They tell their personal stories based on assumptions that they would generally not think to define–whether sound or vision is more important, for example. That’s not a story. Except that it is. It’s a story on a deeper level than most people will ever consciously know. I only briefly glimpse my characters’ underlying assumptions, like temporary mental constructs of a four-dimensional shape. And then they’re gone.