Creating Characters-A Quick & Dirty Guide

November 25, 2017- Here’s a quick and dirty guide to creating characters. This is just a taste but feel free to contact me for more information about the classes I teach!

  • Without characters what is the point- Characters are the heart of your novel
  • What a character wants- It’s critical for the reader to know what your character wants from the start.
  • No one has to like me- The reader doesn’t have to like your character let’s get that straight but they MUST be able to give the reader a reason to follow him. To continue to read his story.
  • But they must care about what happens to him, they might want to see him dead but wishing him dead invokes strong feelings.
  • Tension creates awesome characters, it shows your reader what they’re made of. Put them into tense situations and see how they fare.
  • Choose your name wisely! Stay away from things like Skye and Storm…publishers are sick of seeing these names over and over.

Here is a basic character creating checklist:

  • Name, sex, right or left handed, age, height, build, eye colour, hair colour, distinguishing marks eg. Tattoos, scars, birthmarks etc.
  • Parents, siblings, marital status, significant others, children, other relevant relatives, pets, friends, enemies, other relationships eg. The person they buy lottery tickets from every single day etc. religion if applicable, beliefs and superstitions.
  • Occupation, status, wealthy or not, living space, mode of transport, workspace, are they a neat freak or are they messy
  • Fears, secrets, eating habits or food preferences, sleeping habits, hobbies, pet peeves, how they relax, attitudes, stressors, obsessions, addictions, ambitions, how are they seen by others and how are they seen by themselves

The bottom line is the more that you know about your characters the better. Of course, you don’t have to include everything on the checklist in your book but the point is to know your character so well that it comes through in your writing. Let a little of your character seep out at a time and be sure to show and not tell.

  • Make your character memorable but believable
  • What are the characters flaws? Arrogance, lust, greed, self-destruction, martyrdom, self-deprecation, martyrdom, stubbornness etc.
  • Don’t forget about facial expressions, body language, and emotions
  • Make sure you know your secondary/supporting characters, as well as you, know your protagonist
  • Remember that the secondary characters don’t know that they are secondary characters
  • Don’t let your characters have what they want
  • Ask yourself how you can make your character’s situation worse
  • Build flaws and conflict into the setting
  • Create conflict between characters (not only the protagonist and the antagonist but also between the characters who are friends and allies)
  • Increase the consequences of failure for the hero
  • Remember to blur the lines! The hero doesn’t know who to trust or the hero has clashes with the law, the hero hurts those closest to him, society turns on the hero.
  • Do terrible things to your character. Make them suffer a horrible loss or maim them if necessary.
  • Creating characters is the most important thing you do. If you get it wrong your story will be wrong no matter how well plotted.
  • These are the characters that you need to STOP writing! The hunky, brooding, and mysterious guy: mystery does not mean substance. The Mary Sue: the perfect main character who always gets everything right but doesn’t see it, everyone loves her and she can do no wrong. The popular girl: she’s mean and hates the protagonist for no reason. The nerdy sidekick: make sure their existence means something or kill them.
  • Make sure your character is always acting in character. Don’t make them do something that they wouldn’t normally do. Eg. Your character never combs his hair because he’s bald. Make sure you don’t put him in a bathroom with a comb, brushing his hair.
  • Give every character a reason to be in the story, if there is no reason for them to be in the story then kill them off.

Hope you enjoyed a tiny piece of character creation! Now get writing:)

X LLB

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