How to Create Great Characters
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This will teach you how to create great characters for your story.
- Decide which genre your character will be in. Is it fantasy, action, comedy, etc.?
- Answer the following questions: Name? Age? Ethnicity? Height? Weight? Looks? Personal Habits? Unique Features? Pet Peeves? Sayings? Background events that helped shape life? Generally good or bad?
- Get a family member or friend to give you a random phrase (like “spotted umbrella”) and a random verb (like “danced”). You could put it together to say she danced with a spotted umbrella. Use your character in a short story (a paragraph or two will do it) and write! Write, write, write! After this exercise, you should have more of an idea of who your character is.
- Draw a picture of her/him! Or describe her with detail. Detail is key.
- Give your character a name. The naming should come last if you want the name and the characteristics of your character to match or at least have some connection.
- Remember to make your characters seem real. Nobody is perfect, including those overused “perfect” characters. If you want to capture some gritty, realistic characters, ride the bus. Not the subway. Ride the MTA buses, and go downtown. Look carefully at everyone, you might find some people whose faces alone leak of an interesting character. Typically these people are different from the people one sees everyday at school or work. Don’t let them see you staring. Don’t jot anything down, just let it settle in. Pay particular attention to abnormalities. Warning: If you live in a very shady neighbourhood, and/or are very young/vulnerable looking, avoid this method. Also, don’t wear any showy or expensive clothes. Try to sit behind or somewhere near (not next to) that person, and try to overhear anything they say. Pay attention to their facial expressions, and see what they pay the most attention to. Don’t get caught. What to do once you know you’ve got someone interesting? Try blending in the personality of someone you understand very well (such as yourself) into the shell you have created through your observation.
- Nothing is entirely evil or entirely good. If it is entirely evil or entirely good, it is not real. Make your stories seem real. Even if it contains talking toes!
- Observe what real people do and think. People around you. Sometimes, the dullest people have some very interesting experiences. Play psychiatrist. Don’t get involved, and never be too obvious.
- Pay attention to conversations, be they your own or other people’s. Make sure that the personality of your character shows in their talking and keep in mind that dialogue is one key factor to making your characters real, unless you intentionally include no dialogue in your story. Writing good dialogue is difficult. Examine movies and plays that you find realistic, memorable, etc.
- Keep your old works of writing, even if you don’t plan to finish it. The characters might give you ideas, and maybe even help with plot!
- Please do not give your characters superpowers. Not only is this idea overused and outmoded, but it belongs in comic books, not novels!
- If you are impulsive in your character-making, and you go a lot more on feeling than planning and order, you’re going to make a big melodramatic mess. If you come up with a character, write down some notes, keep adding stuff whenever you like, and come back to it after a little bit of time (couple of days) when you think you feel really clear-headed and ready to focus.
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