Character creation help.

Azzagorn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Messages
190
Has anyone of you got any tips for creating a good soild character, be it either a main one or a bit part kind of character? You she for me stories aren't the problem but making my characters believable, likeable or hateable is something I struggle with.


Az
 

Grimbear

In the Woods
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
343
Location
GodKing of the Multiverse! woooee someone fetch
1) You could set out some traits on paper. Think of adjectives you'd use to describe someone. Fussy, Argumentative, Fidgety, Thoughtful, Quiet, Demonstrative etc Combine some of these traits to create some characters.

2) Use people you know. You may have to get their permission if it's too obvious though.

3) Think about what they look like first. Can you describe their appearance? Sometimes, thinking about how a person looks will help you come up a personality for them.

4) Use different aspects of your own character. Most of us are complex enough to be able to do this.

5) think about what you want them to do in the plot. What kind of people do they need to be to accomplish what you have planned for them?

6) Use all or none of the above or any in combination - they're only suggestions.
 

Warren_Paul

Banishment this world!
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
2,958
Location
Middle-Earth
Has anyone of you got any tips for creating a good soild character, be it either a main one or a bit part kind of character? You she for me stories aren't the problem but making my characters believable, likeable or hateable is something I struggle with.


Az

Most important thing is to think of both good and bad attributes to give them, flawed characters feel so much more real. Nobody is perfect. Joe Abercrombie is the ultimate example for this, read his first law trilogy for inspiration.

I've heard that some authors look at people they know well for inspiration. Because they know all the personality traits of their close friends they can easily portray them in their work.
 

Gumboot

lorcutus.tolere
Joined
Feb 12, 2012
Messages
948
I personally think the key ingredient of complex characters is motivation, and it's not accident that when preparing for a role or a scene, that's the first thing an actor will prepare.

All people want something and are trying to get something, and what they're trying to get will change constantly. The best way to implement classic dramatic structure is to layer a character's objectives across the various parts of the story. There will be one over-arching objective, but also maybe different objectives for specific parts or volumes or chapters or sequences (depending on how you structure your story). There's also likely to be secondary objectives that relate to interactions with different characters.

Finally, in every single scene your characters will each have one thing they're trying to achieve at that moment. That will guide their behaviour in a given scene. What that is might have no relationship to their broader objectives whatsoever - indeed it may run directly counter to their broader objectives.

An example might be a character who's broader objective is to lose weight, but in a given scene they're miserable and their objective is to feel better so they eat some comfort food like ice cream.

Give your characters multiple competing objectives, and they will instantly become more complex.

Having complex objectives is also a great way to develop inter-personal and intra-personal conflict (two of the three key types of conflict that are at the heart of good drama). In the above scenario, the character may feel guilty about eating icre cream because they're meant to be losing weight, so they're actually going to feel WORSE and you've got some great internal conflict to play with. Alternatively, maybe their flatmate comes home and knows they're trying to lose weight and starts nagging them about it. Perhaps that's a common conflict the overweight lazy character constantly has with their fitter, more active friend (maybe it was their friend that put them up to losing weight in the first place and their super objective isn't actually to lose weight but to get their friend off their back!)

See how you can quickly go in complex and interesting directions just by nailing down objectives? The other thing is, if you have good character objectives, and you've determined basic character traits, these will naturally reveal your conflicts.

I have a character that's quite emotional and impulsive, and he's away from his home but he wants to get back there to join in a war. The person looking after him is calculating and careful, and wants him to remain safe, out of harm's way. That immediately informs the major point of conflict between them - he wants to leave, the other person wants him to stay - but also the nature of their conflict - he snaps out emotionally and impulsively, getting worked up, while the other person calmly lays out a logical argument.
 

David B

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2011
Messages
143
I agree with Gumboot. Every character has to have their own motivation, objectives and agenda. The resulting conflict of interests raises the tension levels and powers dialogue.

A good place to start is the characters backstory - their personal history. How they got to this scene in the book, and how that upbringing or those experiences shaped or warped them. Their motives and objectives will fall quite naturally out of who and what they are.
 

Glen

Who are you people?
Joined
Apr 27, 2011
Messages
780
Location
Sydney
I don't think characters always have to be consistent. Sometimes folk are just grumpy, or preoccupied, distracted, or empathetic to another character's state, or they're high or sad. I like reading where the characters are not predictable.
 

Gumboot

lorcutus.tolere
Joined
Feb 12, 2012
Messages
948
Backstory is an excellent idea. And I find you don't generally need to do an enormous amount of work to produce a complex character. If you have a backstory that explains their primary motivation I find that the nuances and contradictions in their character will arise naturally as their background and their desires lead them inevitably, inexorably, into conflict with those around them.

(I love watching my characters fight :D)
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

I'm a pineapple
Joined
Dec 2, 2007
Messages
4,119
Location
My own twisted Wonderland
Has anyone of you got any tips for creating a good soild character, be it either a main one or a bit part kind of character? You she for me stories aren't the problem but making my characters believable, likeable or hateable is something I struggle with.


Az


I'd say first an understanding of psychology would really help. That way you could make your characters' behavior more believable, since you'd know the reason behind their choices of actions, you could reveal that through your writing. You might have a character who talks to themselves all the time and does things that seem totally random, until you reveal that they could be schizophrenic, or had been put through some form of trauma in their life to leave them as emotional as a statue.


Also, don't go for the all-out cold-blooded type or the perfectly sweet, innocent, no-bad-bone type. Most people don't fall into these extremes and have both their redeeming qualities and their flaws. Now it's up to you to decide what those are. ;)
 

AnyaKimlin

Confuddled
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
6,099
Location
North Scotland
I don't go all that complicated. My main route is to create the character's physical - how they react in a situation, move, talk, dress etc. Once I know their external reaction to a situation I have a good idea to the internal. Personally I find 'casting' them with an actor I can stalk round youtube useful.

The story helps shape them then. I also find pulling them out of the main story and doing something silly with them (ice skating, chatting, going out for pizza, shoe shopping etc) helps round them out in my mind. I just write a few scenes like that.
 

hopewrites

Crochet Streamer
Joined
Oct 6, 2011
Messages
3,487
Location
Earth
The characters in my writing started getting better after I started playing Roll Playing Games that had intense character creation processes. If I find a character difficult to wrap my head around I default back to this method. Setting out their attribute stats, then moving on to skills. By defining them in my head and on paper like this I have to ask my self lots of questions about their past and present motivations. So by the time I get around to setting out their physical appearance and 'gear' I dont have to worry about inconsistencies in what they can do and how they look.
 

r_j_dando

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2012
Messages
110
I find knowing where they came from - phsyical and mental environments - plays a big part in a character. Knowing their family is a big contributer, and anyone they socialise with.

For example, I have two characters in a current WIP. The older brother is the son of the father's first wife, who died in childbirth when he was four. The younger is the half-brother, and son of the second wife. The older resents the younger for being the son he thinks their father wants; the younger resents his older brother for being the one who'll always be the best and always come first. This relationship colours their entire characters. The older is always quick to anger and tries to find support outside of the family unit, which leaves him making friends with some less suitable people, and the younger is drawn into a political plot which he believes will make his father finally see him as a person in his own right and not in his older half-brother's shadow constantly.
 

James Coote

Spoon Thumb
Joined
Feb 1, 2012
Messages
439
Location
Anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home
I don't think characters always have to be consistent. Sometimes folk are just grumpy, or preoccupied, distracted, or empathetic to another character's state, or they're high or sad. I like reading where the characters are not predictable.

The trouble is, you have to have consistency first before you can throw in someone having an off day and the reader to recognise that without having to be explicitly told. Otherwise characters just come off as erratic

Also you'll often see when someone is acting out-of-character, it is taken as a cue by the reader and other characters of something is up
 

Langadune

Harley Writer
Joined
Jun 22, 2010
Messages
81
Location
Somewhere in Kansas. Yes Kansas.
Not often. ..but sometimes I answer a lost of questions a if my character were sharing them.
Where are you from?
What was your family like?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What are you midst proud of?
What are you ashamed of?
What's your favorite movie/hobby/sport?
If you could date any century, who?
What music would you want played at your funeral.
What would people say about you after you've gone?
I know three questions wouldn't work in all sci fi or fantasy settings but they can be customized to fit and they help me get a unique perspective on my characters sometimes
 

Similar threads


Top