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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

Pretentious Personalities Help Create Characters…

November 20, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Pretentious – definition: assuming an air of great dignity or importance : pompous

pompous

As writers we strive to create believable and memorable characters. One way to do this is to study characters in movies or on TV that resonate. I found this great list of pompous characters, all of whom are well liked in their media situations but would certainly be difficult to actually live with in the ‘real’ world. Each of these characters have clearly defined personality traits, which make them well rounded personalities.

http://whatculture.com/tv/8-lovable-tv-characters-insufferable-real-life.php/1

There are many methods that, as writers, we can use to form a character. One of the most common is a ‘character biography’ or ‘profile’. I have inserted a couple but you can always formulate your own. We can also utilize personality traits from people we know or even celebrities. A good deal of the information and back story we put into our character’s profile will never get onto the page but with our knowledge of them ensures our character reacts to the situations we put them into, in a ‘realistic’ way.

What method(s) do you use to form your characters?

bio sheet

Character

Ambivalence, A Teenager’s Persona…

November 18, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Ambivalent – definition: uncertain or unable to decide about what course to follow

teenager

Ambivalence is widely viewed as a teenagers persona. Their conversation is liberally interspersed with ‘I don’t care’, ‘I’m bored’, ‘you don’t understand anything’, and many more. The ‘sudden’ change in a child for many parents is puzzling  and frustrating. No matter what they say or do it is never ‘right’. The reason for the changes are due to new massive hormonal  messages flooding the teenager’s brain in conjunction with the normal and current needs and experiences it has to process. In essence their brain is being reshaped, and reconstructed giving rise to personality changes and emotional instability.

It is essential that teenagers are exposed to encouraging, supportive and sound advice in this period as their personality will be shaped into their adult persona during this time. Negativity in any form will result in devastating results, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. The teenager years are the most venerable and it is the reason they need more love and encouragement. Let them experience new hobbies, research spirituality and get involved in organizations but with supervision and guidance. Above all love them.

Have you experienced the ‘teenager’ period? Are you in the midst of it? 

Can you share tips on how to deal with a teenager?

For my own experience I encouraged new hobbies, sports and interests. Got to know their friends and hang outs. Ensured they understood I would collect them from anywhere at any time if they needed me to. Required a text so I knew they were safe and unharmed. And loved them fiercely. My son is now 21 years and a delight. My daughter is 17 and we are coping with her growing up with understanding and love.

When we write for this age group or create a character from it, we need to understand the workings of their minds. As with all research for novels, the more we understand the better our work will be.

 Related articles

Building Memorable Characters…

September 8, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Irate – definition: angry; enraged

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 last weekend, 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.

Some may be based 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.

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

Sacrificing Characters…

July 4, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Sacrificial – definition: pertaining to sacrifice, or short-term loss for longer term gain

writers-blockOnce in a while we come across a character, who for whatever reason needs to be sacrificed. This is a hard choice because we have invested time and effort into their development. This link explains some of the reasons.

http://www.annastan.com/2010/03/cutting-characters-you-love/

Again this link views the number of characters we populate our story with. Can we have too many?

http://marlamadison.blogspot.ca/2013/04/0-false-18-pt-18-pt-0-0-false-false.html

Have you struggled with cutting a character?

How did you choose?

What factors did you take into account?

Twesome Loop 002My novel, The Twesome Loop, has quite an array of characters, mainly because it is dealing with two time periods. There are four main characters, which ‘overlap’ in each era. I had to apply similar characteristics to each of them, so my readers would come to realize who was who in each era

I detailed their personality traits in similar ways, taking into account the differences expected in each culture. It was the obnoxious male character that became the easiest to recognise!

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