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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Creating Characters

I think, perhaps, we need to talk.

No. Talk is the wrong word. What I want to do is listen. Someone needs to explain the concept Creating a Character to me.

For me, characters burst full grown out of my imagination like Athena springing from the head of Zeus. I often hjave full-formed characters before ever find a plot for them.

Sad to say, there are even characters running loose in the depths of my hard drive who have yet to find a plot to call their own.

So I'm a little unclear on this whole idea of Creating a Character. Or why an author would need a method to create a character.

It's right next to the idea of Finding a Story Idea in my box of things that puzzle me. My problem has always been hiding from Story Ideas. They hunt me down and mug me in back alleys.

But I love to learn. So talk....
Where do you get your character ideas from?
How do you create a character?
How well do you know your character before you begin writing?

The statue is
Zeus giving birth to Athena, by Rudolph Tegner, 1873-1950. Found HERE, all credit and copyright where due.


  1. Where do I get my character ideas from?
    -Movies, books, real life, people watching, dreams, artwork...it comes from wherever I find inspiration.

    How do you create a character?
    -I start with the personality. What do I want this person to be like? Then I add in the description of their physical characteristics. Then I ultimately come up with a name I like.

    How well do you now your character before you begin writing?
    -I know a great deal about my characters, but I always manage to find out something new as I'm writing. It's like getting to know a very good friend, and then learning something new about that friend during a lunch together or a walk in the park.

  2. Interesting. I do believe I'm a little jealous that you get yours fully formed. ;-)

    Characters are triggered by two things for me. One is a scene (Those pesky story ideas you can't hide from? They hunt me down too). In that case, I need someone in a certain occupation acting in the scene, which is how the character is born.

    The second trigger is normally a real person (never someone I actually know - just someone I see/observe). I'll see someone (or several someone's), start down the "what if" road, and suddenly I have a new character. By the time I'm done with them, the char. is normally a conglomeration of personality and quirks, so not even close to the original (even in looks, much of the time), but real people trigger chars for me.

    When I start writing, I only have a very basic idea of what the characters are like - their base personality, I guess. I learn everything else as I'm writing. Tried "character development" sheets, but I prefer to just get to know them organically. Makes the character development more real in the story, or so I've been told by people who read my work...

  3. My characters come from names and purposes, really. They start out as a name, a basic appearance, and a purpose, which is enough to put them in the story, and once they're in the story, their personality just comes out.

    My characters develop with the story, as it goes through constant revision, and the characters need to change too in order to fit the constantly changing story.

  4. All I can say is, you're lucky. Stories come about as often as I need them to, and I'm never left wanting for a new idea. Characters tho--that is the struggle. I did find tho that Mandy Hubbard's recent post on characters for WriteOn Con really, really got through to me. :)

  5. Usually, I get a name. Then I form the character around that. I think about their history, form that history to what I need, etc.

    My characters do know how to surprise me still, though.

  6. Thank you!

    This is very interesting. Everyone goes about it a little bit differently, but we all wind up with fantastic characters!

    I love the background on how writers write, how they create. In some ways it's even more exciting than seeing the final story.

  7. I get characters both ways - sometimes they are there, fully formed, other times I start with a name, or personality, or a certain look and develop the character from there.

    I've tried to outline my stories and write down descriptions of my characters but I end up changing them as I write. It's easier for me to write the outline or description after the story is finished.

    Ideas come from everything - my imagination, books, tv, movies, walking outside, talking with people, playing games, etc. A lot of them come from what if thinking as I watch or talk about something.

    Like right now, I've been watching Master Chef and wondering how I would write about some of the participants.

    For example, if I were writing a story...

    What if Jake is here because he has a bet with his construction co-workers that a man who looks like a biker could never win a cooking contest? Instead of actually being a man who loves to cook, he's gone to a cooking school just prior to this contest to give himself an edge and has been able to hide that fact.

    I'd need some co-workers as back-up characters - the know-it-all, the doubter, the troublemaker, the boss - as well as Jake's family, and of course Jake's observations of his fellow contestants and the judges which can be written as I'm seeing them in the broadcasts.

    Hmm, almost sounds like a good story idea except it's something being broadcast already. Still, I can change a few things around to make it more my story - change the theme of the contest, add in motivations of the other contestants, the judges, the reactions of the viewers.

    Must think about it for a while longer. Need a few more changes before it's something I want to write about.

  8. My characters are blends of me with some creative interpretation. I usually pick something about me that i like, don't like, want to change, wish i had, etc. I also people watch which usually sparks some idea or another.
    I typically name the character last. I try to start with a characteristic then an appearance and speech.
    I usually know my people well before I write. Sometimes I'm surprised at how they change.