Creating Characters

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
User avatar
jmcooper
Posts: 54
Joined: December 15th, 2009, 3:19 pm
Contact:

Creating Characters

Post by jmcooper » February 1st, 2010, 4:50 pm

With many of my stories, the character comes first. I tend to develop this little voice and he/she turns into someone interesting and I begin an character analysis--little blurbs of info--that eventually I fit in somewhere. The stories that work, however, also have an element of "what if" so that the two are simultaneously developed. The connections usually appear of out thin air. I often don't want to take credit for them. But what about stories that need a lot of unique voices? How do you go about discovering them? If you have a story that you know is going to need several more characters than just the protagonist/antagonist, how do you come up with them? And when? Do you plot out all those characters or do you let them fall (or rise) where they may? Just curious about other people's process...

User avatar
christi
Posts: 166
Joined: January 31st, 2010, 3:54 pm
Location: Texas
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by christi » February 1st, 2010, 5:02 pm

I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I got a lot of practice at writing by playing role play games online. The first thing you do when applying for a game is you write out a history and character profile. I've done it for so many years that I now do it in my head. My current work has eight characters that I write throughout the book, plus another dozen or so that come in and out of the scene, each with their own defects, flaws, and mannerisms. Whether they are interesting or not is up to the reader, but I tend to like them ;-)
Would you sign my story for a Klondike bar?

http://christigoddard.blogspot.com/

User avatar
Seadhlinn
Posts: 18
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 6:10 pm
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by Seadhlinn » February 1st, 2010, 6:40 pm

I tend to understand my characters very holistically; as a result, I will try to articulate a lot of their attributes by filling out a Myspace survey (laugh if you must) or similar "personality quiz" for them. Much of the time, I'll discover something I didn't know I knew.
The stories I write tend not to have a delineated protagonist or antagonist, just a group of characters with conflicting goals (with many of said goals being equally valid... just mutually exclusive). So I try to think about the issue from the viewpoint of each character in turn and describe the world through their eyes.

User avatar
JustineDell
Posts: 293
Joined: January 15th, 2010, 11:38 am
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by JustineDell » February 1st, 2010, 7:26 pm

Ooohh..Good Topic!!!

Generally my books have two main characters, since I write mainstream romances, I'll call them the H/H (hero/heroine). They already have personalities before anything goes down on paper. It's normally the premise in my head and their personality traits that get the ball rolling. Now the other characters are more of play-as-you-go type thing for me. For example, in my current WIP, my heroine is quite snippy with everyone and as I wrote, her therapist became an engagingly forceful yet friendly self-discovery pusher and her best friend is the much needed uppiddy personality that keeps the heroine level headed when possible. Other characters follow the same suit I guess. They become what the main character needs them to be and sometimes I don't know what that is until right at that moment and the character stays that way through the rest of the story. Man, I hope that makes sense. This may not be the best option because I often find my characters acting "out of character" later on and having to fix the scenerios. Aahh..but that's how it works for me ;-)

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

User avatar
maybegenius
Posts: 349
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:49 pm
Location: Northern California
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by maybegenius » February 1st, 2010, 7:33 pm

I usually picture my world and my protagonist's journey and try to figure out what additional characters need to be added into the story. I have to be very careful with this, since I don't want to throw in another character just for the sake of moving the plot forward - I want them to be more than cardboard cutouts. They need to exist for a reason.

I wouldn't say I've ever based a character off of one of my friends, but I do tend to draw on the varying personalities and characteristics of people I know in real life. Nothing major, just a smirk here or a fear of scorpions there. I watch people for their weird quirks and habits. Everyone has them. I also stop to consider the characters in literature and television that I have really adored, and what about that character made them so appealing to me. In my case, sarcastic smartasses with hearts of gold win me over every time, so a lot of them tend to compete for room in my head.
aka S.E. Sinkhorn, or Steph

My Blog | My Twitter | YA!Flash Tumblr

Represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

User avatar
Seamus
Posts: 67
Joined: January 5th, 2010, 12:56 pm
Location: Rockville, MD
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by Seamus » February 2nd, 2010, 11:11 am

Exciting topic. I've only been at this for 4 or 5 years but I find that my characters (other than the leads) materialize out of the setting and time. I ask myself, "who would be likely to be standing there at that moment." That being said, I’ve experimented with short-stories in which I threw people from random, unlikely places into a situation and let them figure out where they were taking the story. I haven’t found that this approach has been productive for novels, though.

If you ever read my stuff, you’ll see that it's dialog - dense. The voice is almost more important to me than the other attributes, because that is the means by which the reader really gets to know a character. My voices are an amalgam of people I grew up with, people I work with and people I overhear on the subway or in the 7-Eleven. This is not (just) a shameful self-promotion, but my blog (address below) is simply a storage place for many voices I hope to incorporate into something someday. Some are whimsical, some are serious. Some just “are.” I go there to write a character’s voice when I think of one, or to find a character’s voice when I need one.
J. Seamus Welsh
welsh.john.seamus@gmail.com
Blog (a playful place to experiment with character voices): http://oh-thereyouare.blogspot.com/
Website (shameless self-promotion): http://www.inwrittenform.com

User avatar
jmcooper
Posts: 54
Joined: December 15th, 2009, 3:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by jmcooper » February 2nd, 2010, 3:08 pm

For me, characters drive the story--whether I'm reading or writing. If I don't find the voice of the very first person I meet interesting, I have a hard time getting through the book. This issue with this (for me) is that I'm hooked on reading and writing YA. I have found that in a lot of younger YA action plows down the characters. This is okay because it obviously sells. My eleven year old son loves it. He's reading and he's entertained; can I complain?
Then you have the opposite side of continuum with books like Twilight where we spend waaaaay too much time in the brain of one Bella Swan. However, I guess this is also okay, because people are reading, people are entertained. But where is the happy medium? THAT is what I want to master. A book that has good pacing, action, etc, as well as, interesting, engaging, emotive, characters. Sometimes this challenge overwhelms me so much, I shelve my ideas because I don't dare think I can create a story like that.

User avatar
Emily White
Posts: 77
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 2:25 pm
Location: Lockport, NY
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by Emily White » February 2nd, 2010, 5:33 pm

I usually start with one person with no real character or history and put them into a dangerous, funny, stimulating situation maybe even with some other people and then I sit back and discover who this person is. For example, on my newest project, Wolf Moon (shameless plug--see below :) ), I decided I wanted to write about a man in his early thirties, married with a child and struggling to stay afloat. Then I added a bit of the paranormal and let him take it from there. He really surprised me as I was dozing last night with his history, family-life, and where this paranormal element was going to take him.
Find out about ELEMENTAL, my YA Space Opera (available June 21, 2011) on my blog and ELEMENTAL's facebook fan page

lexcade
Posts: 107
Joined: January 2nd, 2010, 12:57 am
Location: northern ky/cincinnati
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by lexcade » February 3rd, 2010, 3:32 am

for some reason, the protagonist always pops into my head, and then s/he fills in the negative space around the plot. for my WIP, i din't even know who the real villain was until like 4 years after initially starting it (i was in high school, leave me be! :-D). all at once, my protag told me that i had it all wrong and that THIS GUY, who was a minor character in the previous incarnation, was the real baddie, not the guy i had pegged in the beginning. there have been a couple of things like that. it's kinda odd, but it's how my brain decides to work sometimes.
"Art imitates nature as well as it can, as a pupil follows his master; thus it is sort of a grandchild of God." ~~Dante

LydiaSharp
Posts: 37
Joined: January 11th, 2010, 4:49 pm
Location: Ohio
Contact:

Re: Creating Characters

Post by LydiaSharp » February 3rd, 2010, 4:42 pm

For me it comes from knowing the characters background. But often times the nuances of that background are built while you're writing. I'm probably not the best example to follow on this. Sometimes I just throw stuff into my story and hope it sticks. If it does, I use it and move on. If not, I try something else.
Lydia Sharp
Science Fiction * Fantasy * Women's Fiction
http://www.lydiasharp.blogspot.com

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest