Creating characters isn’t always as easy as it seems. Sometimes the characters come to us and other times we have to chase them down.
I do think the creating of characters one of the most fun parts of writing a novel.
Characters go places we’ve never been. Characters can do things we’ve never dreamed of doing. Characters can be similar to us or they can be vastly different.
But how do you create characters that are similar but not exactly the same as the people around you? How can you create characters that have more experience than you in a given field?
1. Randomize Everything
I have two apps on my iPad: Name Dice and Lists for Writers. The Name Dice is exactly how it sounds. You tap the screen and the dice roll. The first die shows the first name and the second shows the last name. When you’re stuck…
It’s hard to have a good plot without someone to drive your protagonist forward. Often times, that someone happens to be a “bad guy.”
Someone who is not nice, someone who isn’t your protagonist’s number one fan, someone who wants the spotlight for themselves and goes about it the wrong way. There are a lot of reasons a protagonist becomes a protagonist. Often it’s something bad, but sometimes it’s not.
Who is the antagonist?
The antagonist is a character in your novel. Often times they are the “bad guy,” the person the protagonist is trying to stop, the person the readers don’t root for.
However, you have to remember that the antagonist is just as important to the novel as your protagonist is.
Chris, The Story Reading Ape has provided us with part of a blog post and a link to the “Novel Factory”, where this particular post was published. The post provides us with the ultimate character questionnaire, asking 156 questions which help us to develop our characters.
(I thought the list was fascinating, even more since I don’t know myself as well as my characters after developing them with the help of this list.) But please, check it out. it is helpful.
This character questionnaire has been collated from a variety of sources. It has been split into categories to try to make it more manageable, but this categorisation is far from perfect and lots of the questions could probably be in more than one category.
If you can think of a question that isn’t here and think it should be added – let us know!
First name: Surname: Middle name: Nicknames: Date of birth: Age:
Height: Weight: Hair: Eyes: Distinguishing facial features? Which facial feature is most prominent? Which bodily feature is most prominent? Skin: Hands: Scars: Birthmarks? Physical handicaps? Type of clothes? How do they wear their clothes? What are their feet like? (type of shoes, state of shoes, socks, feet, pristine, dirty, worn, etc) Race / Ethnicity?
What words or phrases do they overuse? Are they more optimistic or pessimistic? Do they ever put on…
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that boys and girls are different. We’re different physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I’m a girl and have no idea what goes through the mind of a boy. Boys have no idea what girls go through. We pretend we understand the opposite gender, but we really have no clue.
With that being said, it’s much easier to write in the female point of view if you’re a female yourself.
When I first started writing my mystery series,George Florence, the main protagonist was George himself. It was all in first-person, but some things just weren’t clicking with the rest of the story.
I eventually changed the point of view to third-person with George still in charge, but even that didn’t work out. With the help of my writer’s group, I came to the conclusion that even though George calls the shots for…
Today I have another post from that kick@$$ writing teacher I’ve taken hostage *slides food through the slit in wall*. Actually, Alex Limberg is a friend of mine and total rockstar and seriously, check out his free ebook about “44 Key Questions” to test your story; it will help you make your scenes tight and compelling and detect any story problem you might have. Today, Alex is showing us a very interesting recipe to keep every single part of your story interesting. Frees me up to continue working out my plan for global domination.
Take it away, Alex!
Uh-oh! It’s showdown time.
In your heart-stopping thriller piece, Tinky the milkman has just found out who poisoned Lady Chatterbee’s canary. Now he is driving to the ash grove for the faceoff in the old mill.
Your scene before and your scene after are sweat-inducing, ear-wringing…
What is the basic for a good novel – or novella – or short story – or even a fairy tale? Yes, it is the characters.
How do we create a character? Will it be one main protagonist or eventually a group, male, female?
Within all my so far written short stories I created female protagonists. I am a woman and therefore might better understand a woman (or girl) in thinking, speaking and logic. (Yes… females are logical too.)
I therefore decided to try and create a female character right here within this post together with you.
We are considering that this story takes place in 2015 Los Angeles.
Who is this character? Yes, she is a woman. But what I’m asking myself at this moment is: Is she shy or outgoing? Is she controlled or whimsical? Is she thoughtful or spontaneous? When she talks, how does her voice sound?
Our character is an outgoing but still controlled personality. She likes contact to other people and is quite social. Still she controls herself very much since she’s got secrets she does not want to reveal. That’s why she thinks nearly every action carefully through before doing something. Her voice is soft in volume but still strong and sometimes even velvety.
Where does she come from? Who are her parents? How did she grow up? How was her childhood? Does she have siblings or another person besides her family? How old is she?
Our woman is in her early/mid-thirties (33), comes from an old rich family and grew up quite spoiled. She had everything she could dream of and so did her brother. Her parents were amazing, even though she had her Dad working most of the time and her mother being nearly obsessed with her beauty, the girl wasn’t missing a thing. She also grew up with her uncle, her mother’s brother, who was a quite unlucky person and living in the guesthouse on the family property. Our girl considered him her best friend.
How does our character look like?
She is tall for a woman, about 5’11”. Her eyes are a warm chocolate brown, her hair is waist long and wavy, the color of ebony. Her skin is a soft honey color. She is slim from nature with small hips and endless legs but her entire body is a little more muscular than a regular female body and her breasts are barely cup size B.
In the middle of her right eyebrow a fine, white, about half an inch long scar cuts her brow bow.
What kind of relationships does she have?
Her parents are dead. She lost them when she was barely 20 years old. Her older brother has his own family and is not very fond of her and wants to keep her away as far as possible. He lives in Tennessee with his family. Her uncle is in prison. She has three best friends, one of them male.
What is she doing in our story? What is her ambition? What are her goals, what does she want to accomplish?
She is a children’s psychologist trying to support misused children. She as well has founded an encounter group and anonymous help line for abused children or young adults.
In many ways she is a very soft hearted and supportive personality. Her need, towards the outside, is to help. But her internal need, unfortunately, is to punish…
Is her a character flawless? If no, where is the hidden flaw? Is she going on someone’s nerves with that? Can it be repaired or hidden?
Yes, she is hiding what was within her childhood. She is hiding that she is not just out of the blue supporting these abused children – she has been going through this herself. She hides murderous rage and this is a secret she may never reveal. Can it be repaired? No, it might be too late for her.
Does she know she has a problem she is hiding or that she needs to work on what’s bothering her since her childhood? Is she aware she needs help? Does she show on the outside that she is torn between compassion and rage?
She knows the secrets she’s hiding, but she has buried them so deeply she is not aware that these problems need to be worked on. She believes strongly the more she supports others with their problems will help her too.
Is our character relatable, and if yes, how? Do we recognize a realistic woman who could have faced what she was going through? Can we imagine meeting a woman like her within our friends or even family? Can we identify with her and feel with what she’s going through?
Yes, she is someone we can imagine interacting with. She is someone we admire for what she’s doing, her work, her compassionate heart, her ability to reach out to the victims. We have no idea who in our real life has hidden secrets, so she wouldn’t be an exception.
Is there something that keeps her away from being some sort of super-woman? She is selfless, helpful, supportive, brave… but what with her rage? What is it that is dangerous to her?
She is an amazing person. One we’d love to be in touch with: an ideal woman in many ways. But there is this one thing that might break her – even destroy her: fear. Her rage is born within the darkness of her being scared to go through abuse again. She’s trembling to meet her worst nightmare again. her abuser.
What is her name?
Her first name is “Danica”, the Slavic word for “morning star”. (I found this fits since she is like the first morning light to many she supports)
Her last name is Baldwin. Derived from the Germanic elements „bald“ (bold, brave) and win (friend).
I do create most of my characters this way. Since most of my short stories are paranormal romance or fantasy I am free to extend the one or other character strength or flaw a little bit and do the same with the look of my protagonists.
You might ask: Do you have a list? And I will reply: Of course I do. There are uncountable lists of how to develop characters. One that works for me and which I used for this blog post is to find here:
I hope you do like Danica Baldwin and let me tell you: it was so much fun creating her together with you. Thanks so much.
This post was published first time as a guest post on Val Rainey’s blog June 15, 2015. Thank you so much Val!!
I am so proud to announce that I was invited to write a guest post for the blog of Val Rainey. I decided to write about how I create a character – and that’s exactly what I do within my blog post, together with the readers.