I will say, the way I write characters may not be the same as how you or someone else might. This lies in the fact that each person's perception of other people is different. We see the same person in many different ways, so the way we create characters and write them works the same.
Writing intriguing characters can be difficult, if not exhausting at times. After all, the main thing to remember when writing and reading is that, they are people, not just caricatures or traits.
To them, the world that has been created is real. They are living in it.
Of course, this is jumping ahead of myself slightly, but it's something important I want to get across for the whole development process of character creation.
Your character is a person. Remember that.
So, how do we create a character to begin with?
Well, the first thing to know is what the world is like around them. Is the world a post-apocalyptic waste land? A mythical forest? or just a suburban town near the coast? Figuring out the setting is important for figuring out the character. After all, a forest dweller isn't going to need or use the same gear and have the same mannerisms as someone from the suburbs.
So, once you figure out the environment, the next step is to figure out why this character is being created. Are they the main character? A simple side-kick character? Or just a random villager passing by to mention information once and disappear?
If it's the third one, we don't have to really go into too much detail and can probably stop at the environment stages.
However, for the other two, that is not the case. So, let's say we need a side-kick character the main character meets in this forest-like environment. Is the person a more wild-child? Or is it more a person based in nature with a whole village? Let's say it's the later.
Now, it's time to start asking questions. Is this man or woman an integral part of the village? Ostracized? A nobody who just wants to leave? You'll notice, we haven't even gotten to what he or she looks like, or what their gender is, that's not important yet, the main thing is to figure out them, as a person.
Once you answer these questions, you may be surprised to find yourself actually developing certain characteristic of the character, without even realizing. For instance, the idea of tribal tattoos, or more wild hair, little details that help you picture the character because of their environment and where they stand in the setting.
Now... now we get into the meat and potatoes of creating a character. Now that we know exactly where they live and how they live, now we talk about their REACTION to this environment.
It's at this point we figure out whether the person is male, female, or something else. We figure out their likes or dislikes, we figure out their motivation, such as leaving the village, and we already know why because of what we know of their environment.
This is where we start developing the personality and also where we can start coming up with the name for our character. I often look up baby names that match a signature trait of the character, but you can do this however you want. Keep in mind, this person isn't just a single trait, like brave, they are a bundle of traits, of both flaws and strengths. Often times, especially when starting out, the easiest way to do this is to make a list, whenever you write a strength, you write a flaw. For instance, let's say this character is brave, but for a flaw, they are not very strong, so they have to rely on other means of using their bravery. Note how I made the two coincide with each other. Writing a flaw like, being afraid of mooses, makes no sense in a story where this character lives in a forest and the likelihood of the characters coming across a moose is minuscule.
Still, now that we figure out our flaws and strengths, we continue on.
After all, contrary to popular belief, once you've figure out all of this... character creation isn't over. Now, you put them in the story.
Often times, when we insert a character into the story that we've developed, we find they might react in a way quite different from what we thought. For instance, we might think this character is a wild child who only understands the forest and not much else, but we learn that... they think the main character is the wild one for not understanding their traditions.
In other words, writing the story is where you learn a lot of the finer details of your character. Our job, up until that point, was giving us a basis for the character to start from. Now we are watching them develop and grow in the world that we already created.
Often times, it's like watching your child develop and grow older in real life, it has much the same feeling.
So now you know how I create characters and, often, why we fall in love with them. They are people, just like you or me, they have their own thoughts, feelings, wishes and fears. That's what makes them so fascinating and why I have so much fun with the character creation process.
Anyway, let me know what you think! I hope you enjoyed this little taste of how I work on my stories and develop my characters.
What are some of the ways you have developed characters, or seen authors develop characters?
Is there a particular character you like? Do you know why? I would love to hear your thoughts.
If you want to check out my writing and characters, you can find my stories here:
Julie Boglisch is a prolific author. At the age of twenty-eight she has already created and published multiple works. Her second series, The Elifer Chronicles, received a glowing Kirkus Review. She is an artist both in character art and cover design and is the creator of her own covers for her works.