So you want to be a writer? Five things to think about when creating characters.

Morning folks!

I do like to do these “five things” posts, don’t I?

Today I want to consider how we write our characters and what it takes to make a character seem, well, real.

This is incredibly important if we want our readers to connect fully with our characters.

The first thing is, to be fair, pretty obvious.

One – Appearance

woman in grey long sleeved shirt
Photo by Ali Pazani on Pexels.com

Appearance is very important.

We live in a very visual world. A world in which how we look is noticed very quickly and assumptions (rightly or wrongly) are made.

As soon as we meet someone we notice their hair, how they dress, their facial features etc. (unless it’s my hubby when I’ve had a haircut. That goes straight over his head, bless him. You’ve just got to love him :)).

Whilst I’m not going to get into a debate here about assumptions made on looks (although, I am dying to have a rant if truth be told :)) we need to make sure, as writers, that we don’t feed into people’s assumptions and their prejudices.

So, why have I picked a pretty girl as the picture to this section? To emphasise the point. And to make sure you’re paying attention. Are you?

Appearance is important. But it’s also important to question and constantly try to challenge these assumptions.

We need to look at things differently and mix it up a little bit.

Besides, how boring is it to read about the millionth heroine with blond hair and blue eyes who is also a fantastic cheerleader, loves animals, aces school and is loved by absolutely everyone?

That’s unless she’s a serial killer by night.

It’s also very boring when people do the “looking in a mirror scene” and then list all of their character’s features.

“I looked at myself in the mirror. My blond hair was perfect, in a bob, just to my shoulders. My green eyes smouldered, looking fabulous in my smoky eye makeup. I adjusted my emerald green top that seemed to set off my eyes…”

You get the picture.

Try and scatter descriptions of your character throughout your writing. Don’t info dump.

You’ll thank me for this one, I promise 🙂

And please, please, try and think about appearance in a new light. Maybe play with people’s expectations a little. Challenge those assumptions!

Two – Quirks

What is a quirk?

A quirk is a peculiar or special aspect to a person’s character.

Such as Harry Potter’s lightning scar. Or in my book, Dragon Rider, my character WIllow has pink hair and lots of piercings.

Willow

Or it could be a character that recites Charles Bukowski ALL. THE. TIME. Or an autistic child who speaks in cat language. Or maybe they chew gum like it’s going out of fashion (like the cliche I slipped in there?).

Whatever the quirks are, keep it consistent and don’t go too over the top!

Three – Traits

Character traits are an aspect of a person’s behaviour and are therefore a very important ingredient in making a character come alive.

You need to know if a person is lazy or energetic. Are they kind? Are they spiteful?

But please, for the love of God, don’t make your character all good or all evil. People are shades of grey. A good, well-developed character will have good traits and some bad.

Again, try not to use cliches. Mix it up a little bit.

Okay, the next two points are my absolute faves when I’m writing a character. I love to get into the nitty-gritty of what drives my characters. What do they want? That, my friends, is the key question.

Four – Motivation

Why does your hero do what they do? What drives them? What to they NEED?

On a basic level, it could be peer pressure that makes them do what they do. Or curiosity, or guilt or the need to survive?

woman standing on road
Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

Is it evil or good that motivates your character? Do they act out of love or hate?

Or are they acting out of fear? Pain, or rejection?

This is what I love about creating characters. I love to find out what makes them really tick.

Five – flaws

Remember the perfect blond I was talking about earlier?

Well, she doesn’t exist. No real person or character, for that matter, is perfect.

We all have flaws.

What are flaws, I hear you ask?

Good question.

A flaw is a fault or weakness in a person’s character. An imperfection or an undesirable quality in your character.

For example, I am very lazy. I eat far too much chocolate and I drink far too much gin and wine. God, I’ve just realised I’m a walking, talking writer cliche. Who knew? I’m also very clumsy. And I eat too much.

I could go on, but I won’t. I’d be here all day else 🙂

Flaws can range from the minor ones (eating too much, clumsy etc.) to the major flaws (greed for example) right up to what are known as fatal flaws.

Minor flaws don’t really impact upon the story. Whereas the major flaws do. For instance, the villain’s flaw will eventually lead to her downfall. The hero’s flaw must be overcome at some point in the story. You get the picture.

Fatal flaws, however, are very different. These are specific flaws that tragic heroes possess. These flaws are so great that they cause the character to bring about their own downfall. Prime example, Tony Montana in Scarface. I know it’s a film and not a novel, but I love Scarface 🙂 The principle still stands.

Want to say hello to my little friend?

No, I thought not, lol!!

So, these are my top five things I like to think about when I create new characters. What do you think?

Anything you’d add to the list?

 

So, you wanna be a writer? Short Writing Prompt.

Short Writing Prompt.

Character.

Look at the picture below. What an amazing face this man has. I’m fascinated by faces and the stories that are written in the very fabric of them.

man wearing blue hurley shirt
Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on Pexels.com

So, using this face as a story prompt, think about who this man is. What’s his name? How old is he? Where does he live? What does he want from life? What makes him sad? What makes him angry? What family does he have? What flaws does he have? How does he walk? How does he talk?

Really think about his character. Give him a biography. You could use this free printable Character Guide and fill in all of the boxes to give this man a background.

Now, once your character is fully formed in your head, write a 1000 word story in any genre you want.

Good luck!

What did you come up with? I would love to hear!

So, you wanna be a writer? Character Development

Character Development

Sometimes, a story can come from one idea, a what if? That’s how my Bones, Ashes and Dust Trilogy began; one simple what if? What if the Angel of Death sent to collect a soul decided to save it instead? But sometimes, it’s a character that comes alive and kicking and screaming – if not fully formed – from your imagination.

This is what happened with Dragon Rider. This is Willow Ravenwood:

Willow

Willow is a witch, a street kid and a bit of rebel. This character was supposed to be at the centre of the novel I was writing but, in the end, the story took over and the novel became about someone and something else. This can happen and I will probably talk about that in later posts.

So, before all that happened, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy novel, set in England, in the future, in a world where Faeries have taken over and have become the dominant species. I also knew I wanted to have a strong central female character. I don’t know how it happened, but as I was ruminating about this scenario in my mind, this character, Willow, pretty much formed in my head.

My first job was to draw her. This helps as a reference when you’re writing. I often forget what colour eyes my characters have, or where their tattoos are and a drawing is a good reference point. My drawing is quite crude but helped me to visualise Willow quite well. If you can’t draw, go through magazines and find a person that fits what you’re looking for. Cut the person out and use that as your template. I did this with most of my characters in the Bones, Ashes and Dust Trilogy, even researching what clothes my character would most likely wear and when. This was especially fun with my main character because she was an EMO and I loved looking at the fashion and picking outfits.

Next, I usually fill out a character profile. This answers questions such as; name, address, age, the birthday of each character as well as their favourite things to do, favourite food, their favourite books and all of that kind of thing. Most of this won’t get used but it’s important to know because it informs your writing as you’re doing it. It’s kinda stored in your memory and helps you get to know your character.

So, I’ve included a free printout of a basic character profile with this post. It won’t fit every character or genre but it is a good starting point from which you can add and take things away from the list. What I want you to do, is, either draw a character or find a person in a magazine and cut them out. I want you to begin making them an outline by printing out the basic profile and filling it in, giving them a name, an age, an occupation or a school that they go to. I want you to give them favourite books, a favourite movie and I want you to turn them into a living, breathing character. What do they want?  What are their fears? What gets them going? What do they get out bed for?

Have a play. A great character may just appear and surprise you! Maybe it might even produce a great idea for a story! Have a go at building a character and have some fun!

Character Guide in word

Character Guide in PDF