Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Character Creation: Ten Questions To Ask

February 24, 2022
mandyevebarnett


When creating a story the main element is the characters within the narrative. To ensure we, and our readers, can visualize and become empathic with these protagonists and antagonists, we need to take into account their personalities and backstory. We can begin by asking questions to enable us to create a fully formed character.

  1. What is this character’s name?

Names are a vital first impression for your reader. It can denote an age, location or era. Research names for your story that will fit time and place. You may also chose a name that has a significant meaning.

2. How old are they?

You can state a character’s age, or allude to it with their reactions, preferences or actions.

3. What do they look like?

You can give subtle clues to your character’s looks through careful descriptions rather than listing their physical features. For example, the steamed up mirror gradually revealed her wet long black hair. He easily picked the box off the top shelf.

4. Who are they?

Utilize a character’s occupation, a prominent personality trait, or interaction to give your reader a glimpse at them.

5. Where are they?

Ensure the location of your scenes is ‘visible’ to your reader. A dark room, a summer day in the park or a sandy beach. Place your character within these locations and have them interact with their surroundings.

6. What era/season/day do they inhabit?

With historical fiction, or date/era sensitive stories this is important so your readers are orientated to where your characters live.

7. Who are your characters interacting with?

Name other characters within a scene, this is usually accomplished through dialogue, or interaction.

8. How do they relate to the other character(s)?

Create scenes that help your reader understand the relationships between your character’s. For example, Tom laid his hand on Cheryl’s shoulder as she typed up the letter. She shrugged her distaste at her boss’s physical touch. Tom positioned himself on one side of her desk and grinned.

9. What is your character accomplishing in each scene?

Each scene should relay what your character is trying to accomplish, with whom and how. Give your readers enough information, but also ask questions on what happens next.

10. Keep your character’s plight foremost.

Keep your reader engaged with curiosity, emotional investment, or sympathy for your character, this will keep them present in the story.

Remember to be true to your story but also your readers expectations within the specific genre.

Do you have certain questions you ask your characters? Care to share?

Author Toolbox Blog Hop- Character Building

August 13, 2020
mandyevebarnett


character-cube

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.

  1. Name,
  2. Physical attributes
  3. Personality traits.
  4. Setting.

For example, Setting: an alien being trapped in a spacecraft, a monster hunting its prey or specific behavior traits for period pieces.

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.

Name: 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.

Accent: a character’s voice says a lot about their location and background.

Real people or not: We can base characters on people we know or a combination of several or from people watching – an author’s favorite pastime. As writers situations, overheard conversation and life in general is a constant source of inspiration.

character-development (1)

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 letting my characters dictate how their story will unfold. In so doing the characters develop creating their own story. This tends to change the narrative from my initial perception.  In this way they may develop characteristics I had not considered or react quite differently to a situation from my preconceived idea. This method may seem harder than having a detailed description of each pivotal character, their backstory and emotional compass, but it is my method.

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. In truth, the initial draft is the testing ground for our characters, and revisions make them well rounded and ‘believable’.

Character profile

How do you create your characters?

Recognize these characters? Remember how irate poor Wile E Coyote would become with Road Runner? No matter what he did he never succeeded in catching his ‘dinner’. Beep, beep would ring out as yet another ACME kit damaged the coyote instead of the bird. It was truly a lesson in perseverance. No matter how many times the speedy bird escaped the coyote he would try, try, try again. I actually went past a road sign to Acme on my way to Canmore one time and wished I could have made a detour just for the fun of it.

wile-e-coyote-roadrunner

The art of creating such lovable and memorable characters is what every author strives for. We hope our creations will stay in our readers minds long after the last page has turned. Character profiles and back story play a large part in ensuring our characters are well rounded and believable. We delve into their personality type seeking out traits and habits to make them react to their crisis situations in an authentic way.

Do you make up scenarios for people you observe? Have any made it in to a manuscript?

 

Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations, we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.

When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. For example this sheet.

character

Ask A Question Thursday

February 7, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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Today’s question is:

When your narrative is set in a real location do you research it or do you visit it?

What are the pros & cons of utilizing the internet to find out about a location versus actually staying there?

map

Feel free to answer the question in the comments.

Last week’s responses to the question:

Have you been asked to ‘explain’ a character trait?

Were you happy to explain it or do/did you feel it took something away from the narrative?

Interesting question. When readers take the time to express loathing for your antagonist, you know that you’ve done your job.

I have an adult thriller/suspense I wrote that focuses on a forensic team trying to bring down a sociopath serial killer. He showed absolutely no remorse for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. When he was sentenced, he vowed revenge on the entire forensic team. He is a drug abuser and blames everyone from his past, and those currently who are his targets, for the path that he’s on. I wrote this novel from the POV of the Forensic Psychologist then added a short chapter here and there to see the killer from his own view. Although I’ve never been asked to give an empathetic view of this character, my sharing his POV sort of gives a bit of background to answer the ‘why’s’ of his state of mind and his anger. I’m not sure he deserves empathy, but at the very least he shows his own logic for his actions. 😉

If you would like to contribute to last week’s question please reply to that post’s comments. Thank you

Liebster Award – Open To All…

March 23, 2015
mandyevebarnett


I found this award over at: http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/2015/03/18/award-season-continues-again/

liebster

As I love conversing and sharing with other writers, I have taken up the challenge.

  1. What makes you dance?  The completion of a manuscript, the first sight of the new book cover and any music with a great drum beat.
  2. What is your favorite genre?  Don’t really have one… I read multiple genres and write them as well. I favorite Stephen King, Kate Morton, Felix de Palma, Maeve Binchey and James Long. So you see a broad spectrum.
  3. If you could have lunch with one of the captains from Star Trek or one of the characters from Star Wars, who would you choose and why? My husband watches these shows…not really my cup of tea. Although, I am drawn to the strong female characters. B’Elanna and Seven of Nine are great levers of those around them and do not concede quickly. As for my choice of Star Trek captains, I think I would choose Captain Kathryn Janeway – she stands her ground but her decisions are emotion and instinct based, which is her strength.
  4. Which five books would you take with you to a desert island? Ferney by James Long, Under the Dome & The Stand by Stephen King, The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchey, Thrush Green by Miss. Read.
  5. Why did you start blogging? I was encouraged to begin blogging by my publisher and members of my writing group to highlight my passion for writing and to connect with other writers and promote my novels. I enjoy the community and interaction of my blog and set a schedule and theme/topic for the year prior to New Year’s day each year. One year I utilized a desk diary word of the day and created posts every day using the day’s word. It was a lot of work but was thrilling to see where my mind went to create each post.

Do please link back here if you take this award – I’d love to read all your answers!  Or if you don’t want to take the award, then answer some of the questions in the comments below.  Let’s get to know each other!

I would like to extend the invitation to my followers and these are the questions I have set.

1. If you could become a character from a novel, who would you be and why?

2. Given the opportunity where in the world would you live and why?

3. What was the first song (record, CD) you bought?

4. Which movie(s) do you wish had not been made from a book(s) and why?

5. Which era do you prefer in art?

Do have fun and link back so we can find your answers or leave a comment here.

Characters – The Hub of Your Narrative…

December 22, 2014
mandyevebarnett


articlesWithout characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

character-development

This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

Character Cube

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

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