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!

The Secret to Writing

blog post 2 picOne of the most frustrating things about being a new writer is finding out what works for you. How do you get yourself to actually sit down and write? Do you have to listen to music? Do you have to lock yourself in a room alone or do you prefer writing at Starbucks? Is the internet turned off or are you allowing yourself breaks? What do other authors do to get that first (or tenth) book complete???

It seems like every author claims to know the secrets to writing that will work for you too. And let me say, there are hundreds of blogs claiming to know the secret to get you started. Because it worked for them, then why won’t it work for you, right? Well, it isn’t always that easy. At least for me, I’ve tried several different ways to keep focused, but what works for others does not work for me. And that is totally okay.

What I do when I sit down and write.

1. Plan out when I am going to write – Almost like a date. I went out and purchased a planner and literally wrote out what chapter I am editing that day. In the same way, when I was writing the first draft, I would jot down goals for completing each section. Based on how many words I could write per day, one chapter could take up to two weeks.

2. Force myself to sit down and actually write – This is the single easiest and most difficult part of writing for me… actually writing. No, I don’t turn off the internet. But I do turn on some classical music on and close out of every open tab that I have. For quick access to my books, I use Google Drive. After I get a chapter completed, I move it to Scrivener for formatting when I go to publish. Because of this, I need the internet on so Google Docs can save and update as I type.

3. Take breaks every hour – To me, breaks are essential to my writing process. However, I have to be sure that they are both strategic and constructive. Wait, what? Constructive breaks? Yes! Usually, I spend my 10-15 minute breaks on Pinterest looking up writing prompts, author inspiration, or tips to self-publishing. It gives me something else to look at, but also helps keep me motivated to get back to my novel.

Tips for the aspiring writer.

  1. Find what works for youThink outside the box! Don’t stop until you are comfortable with a routine. Many blogs have their own ‘solutions’, but that just means that it worked for that particular author. You? You’re different! Unique! Utilize other blogs for ideas, but change things up if it doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to try new things, new environments, etc. On the flip side, don’t force yourself into a routine that doesn’t work. It’s your passion! Make it fun!
  2. Get to it! Whatever gets you inspired, use it. Put up a quote in your work space – anything! Inspiration and motivation may not come every day you sit down to write, but keep going.  Hold yourself accountable to a specific word count or specific amount of time. Cherish it. No excuses! I promise that once you sit down to write, it only takes a few minutes before you realize that you are already immersed in your story.
  3. Procrastination is your enemy. In the realm of writers, procrastination stems from fear of failure and being judged. It’s a natural reaction! I mean, you spend a year or so writing something that you love and craft from scratch. When you go to publish and the world can read your work, it feels similar to standing in the middle of a busy mall, completely naked. With that kind of exposure, no wonder we procrastinate. The only thing that worked for me was ignoring that feeling of dread and just write. Again, do whatever works for you to keep from procrastinating.
  4. Don’t feel bad if you have to scrap it. I can’t tell you how many bad ideas I had to go through, attempt to write, and cry internally when I had to scrap them. Remember, it’s paving the way for a really great idea! Don’t get discouraged or feel like you’re failing if your first few ideas don’t work out. It happens to all of us, but it is a learning experience.
  5. Don’t worry about what other authors do. There are thousands of blogs out there with their own opinions and tips, but it can get easily overwhelming. If you feel like you are being bombarded with conflicting information, just put down the computer and walk away for a while. Always remember that you will have to find your own way. When you are honest with yourself, you will turn out a better product. 🙂

I hope this helps and is broad enough to cover everything. But I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything. Tell me, what do you do that works? Any tips for me??? Comment below!