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Creating your Characters

You are all set to write your best-selling novel. The storyline is fantastic, your ideas are fresh and original but your characters are boring and underdeveloped. Readers are not going to be cursing you the next morning because they stayed up all night turning page after page riveted or anxious as to what would be happening to the main character next. We have to create realistic characters people will care about, someone that they can identify with. In the end, our story comes down to the characters who populate the pages of our novel and their feelings, hopes and experiences in the world we have created for them.

What I do when creating characters might sound a little weird to some of you but I find it helps to visualize the character I am writing about by firstly thinking about how they would look physically and what type of personality they will have. I mean Hannibal Lecter is a lovable type of character is he not? Only kidding, but imagine someone like him cast in a physical description identical to Woody Allen’s? Just doesn’t seem to work, does it?

While I am running through scenarios in my head I start developing the physical image of the person. I then find an image on the web closely resembling the character I am imagining and copy the photo. Now I have a visual image of my character I can describe in detail in the upcoming sheet I use to flesh out the characters. There is nothing worse than realizing your protagonist had green eyes for the first half of the novel and blue eyes for the rest of the story because you made a mistake.

From the very start, we must create a character that the readers can’t get out of their heads. It must be someone that they can care about. To help me understand who they are and how or why they react to certain situations I fill out the worksheet below. Combine the photo (or mugshot) together with the worksheet and you will have a clear idea of who they are and what they look like. There are many more questions we can ask when interviewing our characters, I’ll leave that to you as you work on your own novel with its unique personalities and situations.

Character Interview
Name:
Background:
Birthday:
Place of birth:
Parents:
What was important to the people who raised him:
Siblings:
Economic/social status growing up:
Ethnic background:
Places lived:
Current address and phone number:
Education:
Favourite subject in school:
Special training:
Jobs:
Salary:
Travel:
Friends:
How do people view this character:
Lives with:
Fights with:
Spends time with:
Wishes to spend time with:
Who depends on him and why:
What people does he most admire:
Enemies:
Dating, marriage:
Children:
Relationship with God:
Overall outlook on life:
Does this character like himself:
What, if anything, would he like to change about his life:
What personal demons haunt him:
Is he lying to himself about something:
Optimistic/pessimistic:
Real/feigned:
Morality level:
Confidence level:
How is he viewed by others:
Typical day:
Physical appearance:
Body type:
Posture:
Head shape:
Eyes:
Nose:
Mouth:
Hair:
Skin:
Tattoos/piercings/scars:
Voice:
What people notice first:
Clothing:
How would he describe himself:
Health/disabilities/handicaps:
Characteristics:
Personality type (choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholy):
Strongest/weakest character traits:
How can the flip side of his strong point be a weakness:
How much self-control and self-discipline does he have:
What makes him irrationally angry:
What makes him cry:
Fears:
Talents:
What people like best about him:
Interests and favourites:
Political leaning:
Collections:
Food, drink:
Music:
Books:
Movies:
Sports, recreation:
Colour:
Best way to spend a weekend:
A great gift for this person:
Pets:
Vehicles:
What large possessions does he own (car, home, furnishings, boat, etc.)
and which does he like best:
Typical expressions:
When happy:
When angry:
When frustrated:
When sad:
Idiosyncrasies:
Laughs or jeers at:
Ways to cheer up this person:
Ways to annoy this person:
Hopes and dreams:
How does he see himself accomplishing these dreams:
What’s the worst thing he’s ever done to someone and why:
Greatest success:
Biggest trauma:
The most embarrassing thing that ever happened to him:
What does he care about most in the world:
Does he have a secret:
If he could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:
He is the kind of person who:
What do you love most about this character:
Why will the reader sympathize with this person right away:
How is the character ordinary or extraordinary:
How is his situation ordinary or extraordinary:
Core Need:
Corresponding psychological manoeuvre (delusions, obsessions,
compulsions, addictions, denials, hysterical ailments, hypochondria, illnesses,
behaviours harming the self, behaviour harming others, manias, and phobias):
Anecdote (defining moment):
History

Naming your characters is possibly one of the most important steps when it comes to their personality and role they will be playing in your novel. Try fleshing things out a little more by revealing a memory, secret and a desire. Use your own everyday experiences to add to what the characters see and feel. It was raining the other day when I went to fetch our youngest daughter from school and I was standing under a tree. Yes, I know but there was no lightning! It was a typical spring day in Queenstown, cold southerly wind, snow on the mountaintops and a slight mist hovering over Lake Wakatipu.

I had run through a puddle and my feet were wet but hey! What would one of my characters see in this? I took a moment to enjoy the beauty surrounding me through my protagonist’s eyes. The scent of the pine tree was comforting. I watched droplets form on the pine needles and slowly trickle down and land with a tiny splash in the puddle. Ducks bobbed up and down on the small waves caused by the wind gusting across the water. A rainbow arched across the sky. I continued taking mental notes of my surroundings until I heard the school bell ring. Looking across to a sheltered area I noticed other parents waiting for their children. All of them were standing there staring intently at their cell phones!

I hope you have enjoyed this post and that in some way it might help you on your writing journey.

Best wishes.

Ricky.

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5 Comments

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    1. Ricky Balona says:

      Thank you very much!

  2. Xmc says:

    Czlowiek nie moze zyc, nie wiedzac, po co zyje” – Gustaw Herling-Grudziński

  3. Gwiazdor to czlowiek, ktlry latami pracuje jak opetany, by zyskac popularnosc, a potem zaklada polaryzacyjne okulary, zeby go nie rozpoznano… :-).

    1. Ricky Balona says:

      Bardzo dobre! Dziękuję Ci!

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