So, I’ve finished and published 1 book and I’m in the process of editing the second book… which means I think I have some knowledge I can share about character creation.
I will be honest with you… I get super attached to my characters. There are times I will hold conversations with them to work out situations. I will draw them out or talk about them with people as if they were real. I don’t think I’m alone with this… at least I hope I’m not. After all, all writers are a little crazy. 🙂
Anyways, I’ve been asked a few times and those in my writers group have discussed our ways of building characters… which I guess has led me to posting these steps. Hopefully these will help you or at least start you on the path of creating your characters. 🙂
Step one: What’s in a name?
Although some people may not think about this, naming your character is like bringing forth new life. When you were born your parents gave you a name. Everyone has a name. This name is what makes you, you. Now, when it comes to your character you can spend hours on a name, but here are some things that will cut down time.
What are some main traits you want your character to have?
What themes does your character represent?
What gender is your character?
Now that you have answered those questions, the next big thing is research. That’s right, research.
All names have meanings, and you don’t want your character’s name to represent something that your character might not be. A good website I use to find names for my character is Behind the Name. This site gives you names from different cultures, eras, and their meanings.
Some traits Alex has are dependable, protective, and friendly.
He is the hero; a defender/ leader in his group of friends.
Gender – male
When looking up the name Alex, you find the root name Alexander. Clicking on Alexander it brings you to a new page that explains that Alexander means “defender of men” or “to defend/help”.
As you can see, just by choosing the name you get some basics about your character.
Step Two: Likes and dislikes
You have things you like, and things you don’t like. I like sushi but I don’t like tuna. I like hiking but I don’t like biking. Your character has these likes and dislikes as well. They may not have a choice when it comes to things they don’t like because they could have allergies. They may be forced into liking something because they have a crush on someone they wish to impress or a friend they don’t want to upset.
Don’t just make a list, but also make reasons to why your character likes and dislikes things.
Alex likes football because it reminds him of the Sunday mornings his dad would take him to the field to watch the college team practice.
Alex likes grilled cheese because it’s the only food he can make without burning.
Alex dislikes his math teacher Mr. Hamel because no matter how hard he tries the guy just doesn’t give him a break.
Alex dislikes swimming because he drown in a pool when he was six at his friend, Ryan’s, birthday party.
Step Three: Goals
Everyone has goals. Let them be as small as passing a test, or as big as becoming a world famous Pokémon master; these goals will help ground your character.
Alex wants to ask Heather out.
Alex wants to pass Mr. Hamel’s math class.
Alex wants to become a game developer.
Alex wants to help Ryan get over being dumped.
These goals help your character grow throughout the story, and give you ideas to develop your character’s relationships.
Step Four: Voice
Everyone has their own way of talking. Some people are loud, others are reserved. Some people dramatize, others are straight to the point. Some are rude, some have accents and some have under developed verbal skills. Your character’s voice is their way of communicating with the reader about what is happening around them, so take some time to think of how your character sees the world.
Alex chooses his words carefully, and swears when he gets upset. Alex loses track of what he is talking about when in large social situations and can come across as awkward to people he doesn’t know.
Step Five: Mock Conversations
You thought I was going to say appearance, didn’t you? I’ll have you know, appearance isn’t everything.
You can change the way your character looks just as much as people change their own hair colour or clothing. So, why did I choose mock conversations? Simple. It’s the conversations that develop your character’s personality and relationships with others.
How do you create mock conversations? Simple. Think of a possible situation your character may get in and write it out. You may never use this in your final work, but then again, maybe you will. It may sit in a file for a few years, or be placed in your story from the start. Just because you wrote it down doesn’t mean it MUST be used.
To give you an idea, I make three word files when creating a story. 1 is the story, 2 is ideas and information about the story, 3 are potential conversations and mock situations. I don’t know how many times I used stuff from file 3, but I’ll tell you this, whenever I have writer’s block creating a mock conversation with my characters helps free my mind 95% of the time.
Plus, it’s fun!
Mock conversations can be based in the world you have created for your characters, or you could place them in a whole new environment and see how they react. Think of Sims. They have traits and environment, but they all act completely independent from each other.
Alex is a teenage boy in high school, but I can place him in a coffee shop on a university campus. This poses questions like:
How did he get there?
Why is he there?
Is he meeting someone? If so, who?
Does he order anything?
How does he act when approached by the waiter/waitress?
And so on and so forth…
Mock conversations can be as short as a paragraph or as long as several pages. It all depends on your muse and if the situation develops on its own. Don’t over think when you are writing mock conversations. Let your characters speak for themselves and answer the questions your have thought about.