Also, a friend of mine who is a writer often asks me about the things that inspire my writing, and he finds each different author's process interesting to hear about, so I thought I'd share.
A Character Checklist?
When I first started writing, I didn't even want to type a single word without creating a character checklist. I was afraid that I was going to say for example that my character had brown hair, then later contradict myself and think, 'I should have created a bio right from the start!'
So, I did create a check list of some simple things, such as:
- Physical appearance
- Character's personal and family history
- Talents, skills
- Psychological matters such as intelligence, attitudes, etc.
- Personal beliefs - religion, spirituality, right or wrong, etc.
So this was my starting point. But do I believe that making a checklist and being sure to mention all these character's aspects makes a 'rounded' character? No. I don't.
If you were to just go ahead and tell the reader all these facts about your character, then it would most likely make very dry reading.
Making the Character Feel Real.
I realised during writing that I actually find it unpleasant to write if I don't have a clear picture and sense of the character in my head. It's difficult because I'm unsure of how my character will react to even the simplest things.
To tackle this I usually come away from my laptop (that I do all my writing on) and sit somewhere quiet to think and visualise the character.
I think about the things on the checklist and I ask myself how that character would respond to a specific situation compared to how a different character would.
But the main thing I try to do is have empathy for them. I ask myself what I would do if I had the same beliefs as them, or if my parents treated me the way that this character's parents treated him/her.
Character's internal thoughts.
It may be a style issue, but I quite often like to know the characters thoughts directly. A Death Displaced is written in third person and follows two main characters, showing both their points of view, but to begin with I wanted to write at least one character in first person.
Because I tend to be less descriptive in first person, I went with third. And I compromised with myself by having some of the character's thoughts in first person in italics. For example: Tony huffed as he loaded the dishwasher, Why am I the only one who cleans up in this house?!
Not the greatest example, and Tony isn't a character in any of my work, but you get my point. It shows Tony's feelings and attitudes towards the people he lives with. Although only a simple comment in his head, it could show that he feels under-appreciated, resentful, ready to move out and find his own place, or it could be used as a subtle hint that his relationship with whoever he lives with is beginning to go down hill.
Using Different POVs to Make Characters Come to Life!
Like I mentioned earlier, A Death Displaced follows two main characters and is shown from both their points of view.
The good thing about this for me was that they could both have opinions on characters that they both meet. It meant I could show different aspects of side characters, but not just that; it also shows something about the character making the judgement, because they might take one persons mannerisms to be confrontational (hinting at some level of ego) whereas a different character might take that same persons mannerisms to mean that they have self-confidence issues (hinting that this character is more sensitive or empathetic).
Another good thing about describing other characters from your main character's point of view is that the reader can share in the feelings your main character has towards the other person.
Instead of just saying 'Tony thought Sally was fat and mean.', you could bring more feeling to it and say: 'Tony cringed at the idea of being in a confined space with Sally and her belly; it wasn't just the sweat, the heat and the smell he feared, but he also knew that if he made a comment, she would bite his head off.' - This gives me a more vivid picture that Sally is fat and possibly mean, and it also tells me a bit about Tony.
There are other ways I come up with characters and little snippets of their worlds and their lives, but each time I write or think about writing, another idea comes to my mind of something that character could do or own or want to do or want to own, etc! It all adds to their depth.
Read Books with Characters in that You Love.
There are some characters that I love and when I read even a short paragraph, I get a sense of them and they feel so real to me and I just want to be in their world with them!
So when I read books with characters that feel real to me, I try to pick out the techniques that author has used and see if it's something I could apply to my character (if it's relevant and feels realistic to do so).
Big Decisions, Little Decisions. (And consistency)
Something that makes characters stand out for me is the decisions they make. Big or small. When one character chooses a chocolate bar as a snack and another chooses an apple, I like these small difference. And they need to stay consistent, or if the character changes their behaviour, it needs to be justified.
Big decisions in tense moments will really show your character's true colours. One might commit murder to save their family, while the other may rather die than take another person's life and live with it.
Mannerisms, speech patterns, CONSISTENCY!
Having different characters use different words or types of words is a good way to make them feel real. Some characters won't use ridiculously long or complicated words, maybe because they feel its pompous or maybe because they lack the education, while other characters may use a good range of vocabulary.
Some characters might have a twitch, a limp, etc. Or maybe they drop letters in their speech, like this: 'I'm runnin' out o' time!'
Just remember to keep it consistent or justify the differences.
That's all for now.
That's all I can think of for now. There are many more ways to make a character feel believable, and I am by no means the final word on this matter!
What are your thoughts?
Fellow writers, readers or anyone and everyone, what are your thoughts on character creation?
How do you go about it? Any tips? Please leave comments or ask questions!
Thank you for reading,