Creating Believable Characters

If it scares you,it might be agood thing to try.

Welcome back! Today, I’m going to show you how I create characters for my novels. I wrote this as Part 2 instead of the creation of settings. Why? Welllll… you probably already got a lot of setting creation completed when you were searching for inspiration (Part 1). Plus, I believe that environments can change significantly with your characters. Characters are malleable to a point, but they take on a certain life that is inflexible, whereas a setting is created to fit the characters. Stay tuned for Part 3 where I offer insight into Setting Creation.

So, how does one create an entire human being out of thin air? Well that’s an author’s gift! Guys, Gals, and everyone in between – not everyone can do this. You have the ability  to create and entire story with your own flair. Don’t downplay this gift! But understand that it can be difficult as well. I hope to make it a bit easier 🙂

One thing that almost every author can agree on is utilizing people you know to create characters for your novel, novella, short story, etc. Especially with your first project, you are experimenting with techniques. The story itself is where you spend the majority of your time. Wouldn’t it be easier to have character foundations already created? Duh – of course it would! And hey, no one says you can’t make a character after yourself. Whether that’s the main or a supporting character, it is really your choice.

As for me, my main character for The Wanderer Trilogy, Eva, is created from certain aspects of my personality as well as traits that I wish I had or did not have. It definitely helps me ask important questions like “What would Eva do in this situation?” “How would she react to finding this out?” – Makes my life much easier when I can put myself in her shoes and it also causes the character to be much more tangible.

Secondary characters in The Wanderer Trilogy are based off people I know. Again, I use certain aspects of their personalities, not necessarily the entire package. Trust me, it is so much easier to focus on the story line when you create from existing individuals. Start paying more attention to your friends and family for interesting and unique characters!

That’s one option.

Another place to search for character inspiration is public places. If you are really good at ‘people watching’, this could be the best option for you! A coffee shop, the local shopping mall, a park, pubs/bars, a fast food restaurant, etc. – all great places to bring a pen and paper for character inspiration. They key here is… don’t make it creepy. You may get a few questions or odd looks if you’re sitting right next to someone and writing down their gestures or physical traits. Yeah. Don’t do that. Another tip, don’t discriminate! Write about as many people as you can. There may be a trait that you dislike at first, but that could quickly change when you sit down to write.

Once you master the early steps of Character Creation, you will be able to make humans, elves, and robots from scratch. No people watching. Nothing. Repetition is the best way to learn and find out what works for you.

The next step is expanding the minor notes that you have made thus far. Personally, I don’t hold myself to too much detail because I like being flexible. Sometimes the plot can change a big thing about a specific character, so I just let it happen and jot down the trait later. The Internet has quite a few templates for characters, but here is what I use:

  • Basic Information
    • Name
    • Age
    • Family/Friends
    • Main Character? Secondary Character?
  • Physical Characteristics
    • Includes stature, complexion, unique traits, attire, weapons (if applicable)
  • Personality Characteristics
    • Includes unique gestures, sayings, specific quotes to use in the novel
  • Notes
    • Anything else I can think of

And that’s it. No, really. That’s all I use. When I write, I feel like the plot forms better characters if they aren’t held to a specific mold. You don’t want stagnant, cardboard characters like Bella from Twilight (she’s always used as an example for bland characters). Dynamic characters are much more realistic and will make your novel a thousand times better. Whatever it takes for you to create a multi-faceted character, do it! I’m a huge advocate to doing whatever works for you (if you haven’t guessed by now). Just like your characters, you do not fit in a one-size mold.

Another invaluable resource for character inspiration is Pinterest. (You’d think I own Pinterest by the way I talk about it :/ ) Seriously. Search “[Your Genre] Character Inspiration” and you will not be disappointed. There are thousands of photos to help visualize your characters.

Let’s recap… Character Creation does not have to be difficult. In my experience, using myself or people I know as the base of a character is a great way to start out. If no one you know “strikes your fancy”, go to a public place and search for inspiration there. And if all else fails, use the Internet! It is totally up to you how much detail you plan out. But don’t sell yourself short and force a specific cookie-cutter character when you start your first draft. In the end, you must let the words flow out of you. So be flexible and believe in your craft!

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