Friday, August 20, 2010

Steps to creating a character

I’ve decided that while I focus on writing stories and navigating the web to find good resources and check out different sites I will focus here on how to create a character. When I go through a how-to book, usually something to do with writing fiction, I prefer to take notes to help me remember things in the future or jog my memory of an idea the writer had or I got from what a writer said. This series of blogs is from the notes on one of those books, although I am trying to figure out which book. (The newer books I’ve picked up I’m writing the notes under the title, this book I wasn’t so lucky to think ahead.) As I write sci-fi and some fantasy, many of my posts may mention things like non-human backgrounds or features. If it doesn’t apply directly to your writing, it may still apply indirectly.
Characters are very important in a story. In fact, they are the story. Some movies can get away with having no real characters in them, those are the ones with very little acting beyond screaming and action or chilling sequences, but a book is based on the character. A book may leave more to the imagination than a movie, such as how someone really looks, how those features match up, and settings can look differently in the minds of different readers, but the reader knows more of what happens in a character’s head than in a movie. Often movies try to show in action and facial expressions what a character is thinking but books usually tell in words what they can’t show people. Because of that, creating the character thoroughly is very important. However, not all of these questions need to be answered before you start your book and often the answers may change before you finish your work. That’s fine, it’s part of writing. Just be sure in the rewrite that if you changed a part of the background halfway through the story, it still matches with what was said before or change what was said before.
Before you can decide on things like personality and appearances you need to know what position you want the character to fill. Often I build a story around a character idea but I know not everyone writes like that. Even if you do write the story and plot based on one character, you still need to add other characters in the book to make it solid, unless you want to write something like Castaway with only one main character and few other actual actors. So you know your main character and you know the plot. Now you just need to figure out what makes the flighty sister tick or figure out who the boyfriend/love interest is or who the villain is. You know you want the love interest to be charming and kind but still masculine or you want her to be a tough shell to crack. You know the villain wants to kill your main characters or to take something they have. You may even know a trait your character has such as a phase they always say or a particular scar. However, a good writer knows the back story, at least generalities usually more than everyone else knows about them, of every character in their work. This series is designed to give writers ideas on questions to answer about their characters and I hope it gives you a few ideas as well.

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