Creating a Character, Part 1

Characters are the single most important aspect of your writing. They are the vessels that transport the reader into your imaginary world; if they aren’t well developed or well thought out, they may wind up dropping your readers into the sea of forgetfulness. Think about it. What is your favorite book? Your favorite part of the book? Odds are that you chose this particular instance because of the characters. For example, my favorite book is Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and my favorite part is when Vidanric makes a wager with the protagonist, Meliara. The stake of the wager: a kiss. I don’t love this part merely for the idea that two people will be racing against each other for a single kiss. I love this part because of how the two of them react to each other. Vidanric stated the wager and the stake just to spark Meliara’s personality, and she, in turn, accepted knowing that if she won, she wouldn’t have to kiss him.

Now that you have your favorite part in mind, think about the characters. What makes them so memorable? Is it their personality? Their quirks? As you create your story, you must have the proper characters to keep the plot flowing. How can you do that? How can you write about a character that your readers will actually know only by what you choose–or not–to write about? Simple. Know your characters from the inside out.

My favorite way to do this is, when I have an idea for a character, to plot out who they are in a character bio. You can follow this link to the bio sheet I created to flesh out my individual characters –> Blank Character Bio

The trick isn’t just to “fill it out” and move on. You want to explain your character. It doesn’t have to be in depth, but anything but a shallow answer will do. For example, one of the blanks to fill in the bio is favorite food. Instead of just saying “sushi,” explain why. “Character X likes sushi because her father used to take her to sushi bars before his car wreck, so Character X feels closer to her father whenever she eats it.” It doesn’t have to even be that detailed. You could just say that “Character X likes sushi because her father treated her to it often as a child.” I just feel that the more detailed, the better. Why is this? Because you won’t be describing every single thing about your characters to your readers. You’ll be writing and leaving things out, yet, since you know your characters so well as you write about them, your readers will feel as though they know your characters just as well and can infer for themselves that “Character X would like sushi because of…” They would get all of this without your specifically saying that Character X liked sushi.

This results in the idea that most readers have after they read a work and talk about the characters as if they were real people.

“Meliara wouldn’t have ever agreed to the wager if someone else had given it!”

“Really? I think she would have just to prove that she could best anyone on horseback.”

“Well, I think she only agreed to it because she likes being in the fresh air and was looking for a reason to race her mount across the hills.”

And all of these are true because the readers would have known how Meliara was through how Sherwood Smith had written her through personality and actions.

Now it’s your turn! Don’t forget to check out Part 2!

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Creating a Character, Part 1

  1. This has got to be one of the most important aspects of writing! The characters make the story. Great post as always! Do you find it helpful to sometimes give a some sort of stand out characteristic, something physical that makes the pop from the page, Like an old fighter who’s always grim, doesn’t smile a lot. Or a cocky young man who’s smile gives him a mischievious boyish quality.

    • Yes, actually! Unconscious traits (such as being grim or perpetually happy) can really make a character believable. Little quirks like these will make the character more memorable and ‘real’ in the readers’ minds. In my character bio sheet, I have a place under personality titled “other” that I like to fill in with characteristics like this.

  2. I downloaded your bio sheet. It’s very similar to mine but I like the lay out better somehow. Anyhow, was just wondering if you find that sometimes as you’re writing, those little “quirks” come out on their own. I recently created a villan, “Falita Kain” And as I started writing the scenes, I discovered two things about her that I hadn’t planned, She’s fearless, and Doesn’t like to loose! Anhyhow, I went back and added those to the bio for later reference. It’s fun to see the characters grow in some direction!

    • This happens quite often! I’ll be working on a character and then, before I know it, my character has come to life in ways that I hadn’t expected. It really is fun! 🙂

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