When I write stories, I love to start with the characters. I tend to have a working character factory in my head, coming up with new traits, backstories, and the like. Some of them move on to the usable stage, and others stay on the shelf until I want to use them or…until I never use them. Characters can be difficult to create. When I started writing I had no idea what I was doing and I was just replicating archetypes, creating stereotypes that are exceedingly overused throughout today’s media. It was awful. My character came out like canned cheese and I wanted to do something about it. I don’t remember when, but I started reading articles about character creation and creating memorable characters. Actually I probably just typed in “How to create memorable characters” into Google… Anyway, the main point is that I picked up was that I needed to create characters that I wouldn’t forget. So that got me thinking….why do I like my favorite characters? What is it about Ezio Auditore do I like? What is it about Max Guerva, Ender Wiggin, and Korra that makes me so protective of them?
What are some elements of your favorite characters that you admire?
I like complicated characters. Characters who are one-sided aren’t very memorable. For the most part I appreciate when characters are written like actual people, where I am able to connect with them and call them my friends. Whether I have taken my relationship with those characters too far or not is up to you, but I have subconsciously considered my characters my friends several times throughout my writing life. Now that I have officially confessed that, I will move on without any regrets.
Character building isn’t all about physical appearances. Characters are essentially people. They are supposed to have likes and dislikes, dreams, goals, fears, people they hate, traits that they hate. Some of them may hate themselves. When I’m writing, I usually tend to have a character sheet for all of my characters. It looks somewhat like this:
Full Name: Occupation:
Now, as you see I do include physical characteristics, but it’s not the main part of my character building process. A large part of this character building outline is the “Habits/Traits” category. That is the section that gets to heart of my character, the part which allows me to delve into the innermost part of my character. These things are probably not going to be included into your story unless they are a large part of your character, but they are good things to know. The reader doesn’t necessarily need to know that your enemy is lactose-intolerant unless knowing that fact gives the reader an idea of how your hero is going to kill the enemy. Writing down little bits of information gives you an idea of who your character is.
Here’s some random habit/trait question to spur your character creation:
Favorite tv show?
How does s/he stretch in the morning?
Favorite place to hang out?
How many friends does s/he have?
What would your character do for their dreams?
How important are their dreams?
Right or left handed?
Does your character like the read?
Does s/he fold the pages?
How organized is s/he?
Does s/he wear their hair a certain way?
Do they have an unconscious habit?
What do they do when they lie?
Do they like gum?
What is something they love to do?
Do they have a secret pastime?
How do they feel about love?
Do they like romance?
Do they like children?
These are just a few questions that I ask my characters. I ask a lot more and I’ll possibly make a separate post with more questions but for now I will leave you with these.