Whether you spend time intricately plotting and creating your story line or let the story flow unbidden, one facet of all stories that must be created and created well are its characters. Your protagonist, antagonist and all the supporting characters have a ‘job’ to do. They must give our readers an insight into their personalities, their struggles, ambitions and fears. Characters build the ‘world’ you have set your characters within by showing it through their eyes, their thoughts and actions.
Every writer has his or her own methods, when it comes to the creation of a character. Some begin with a name, others physical attributes or personality traits. You can even begin with the setting and fit your characters around it. Such as an alien being trapped in a spacecraft, a monster hunting its prey or specific behavior traits for period pieces. In creating a character, we have to decide on their physical features. This primarily gives our readers an image but more importantly an idea of their personality. A thin, acne-faced teenager will not automatically give our readers the idea of a ‘superman’ kind of personality but a muscle bound, athletic type could. A name can be a good starting point for our creation, but it is also a minefield. Research into real persons, living or dead should be foremost, unless of course you are writing about that particular person.
There are numerous ‘character development work sheets’ available on the Internet and it can be useful to fill them in for your main characters, if you have no clear ‘picture’ of them to begin with. I tend to write the story and the characters develop as I go along but I know other writers find this method too difficult. The joy of creating a story is that your characters may change from your initial perception as the story unfolds. They may develop characteristics you had not considered or react quite differently to a situation from your preconceived idea.
We ‘live’ with our characters for a long time and they become ‘real’ to us. This enables us to write the story with ‘insider knowledge’ of our characters backstory, their emotional compass and their ultimate goal. This knowledge becomes paramount during the subsequent drafts and editing process, giving us a well-rounded character and a believable one for our readers.
How do you create your characters?