This is the second part of an exercise in how to create a story. To start at the beginning click here.
Before we get on with learning how to create a character, let’s look at what why characters are so important for your story.
This may seem obvious but there are a lot of stories out there with characters that are basically little more than a blonde with a hot body, or a torso with some ‘rippling muscles.’
Many ‘characters’ simply move from location to location occasionally stopping to have sex or to shoot someone.
A CHARACTER IS NOT A DESCRIPTION
There’s more to characters than brief snippets of description. It doesn’t matter whether they are animal, human, or space aliens as long as people identify with them, or admire them in some way.
This does not necessarily mean people should like them by the way. A lot of the most interesting characters are far from likeable. Hannibal Lector being one of the most obvious.
A lot of writing courses emphasize the importance of creating likeable characters. The expression ‘Save The Cat’ came about because so many villainous characters stop to save a cat, (feed a bird, rescue a puppy etc.)
This is supposed to make us like them and it is pretty standard for writers to be told that their characters are unlikable because they are not ‘nice.’
Have our characters got to be ‘nice?’ Do people read books about nice people doing nice things in a nice world?
No it’s not exciting and what’s the point? There is no drama in a world filled with nice people doing things.
We like to see obstacles overcome – that’s the thrill of the ride.
Not all obstacles have to huge or physical. Some of these obstacles can be internal to the characters.
Maybe they start off being afraid of something but have to deal with their fear during the course of the story.
That is not to say that we don’t tend to like characters who rescue animals, or who take a break during a killing spree to help some cute orphans carry some fluffy bunnies cross the road.
However, a really well drawn character can draw us in without making us like them. Wasn’t there something appealing about Hannibal Lector?
Maybe it was his coolness, his love of culture, his intelligence and perception? Did he save a cat? Not that I recall, he probably ate a few along the way.
CREATING YOUR CHARACTERS FROM SCRATCH
In my opinion it is easier to create a likeable character than an interesting one. Interesting is always more work, but when it comes to fiction and films I prefer interesting to likeable. Memorable is best. So now, let’s get down to actually creating some characters from scratch.
CREATE YOUR CHARACTER NOW
The first thing you are going to do is start by describing people who have influenced you, either positively or negatively. It doesn’t matter which.
This isn’t going to be a therapy session – you are going to distance yourself as much as you can and view it as all ‘material’
Go back through your life, start with your last job, or college course, or some activity you were involved in:
Mentally list the people you encountered who maybe made you angry or sad, or even just vaguely curious.
Now don’t worry – we are not going to use real people in our story because we are going to change everything about them; their appearance, personality, their attitudes – everything.
You are going to allow your imagination be consciously informed by your experience. This will give you a starting point. From there you will start to build your characters. Stop when you have written down ten characters:
Give you characters names, physical descriptions and jobs. Then move on to the next stage.
Now think about each character:
Write down whatever it is you think each of them wants most from life, it could be security, money, a happy family, a nice home, to walk around the world, save the world etc.
Repeat this process with each of your ten characters, then stop. You now have a set of ten characters.
Each of these characters contains the seeds of a story and in this post here you will learn how to develop the stories you want to write for your newly born characters.
Best of luck with your characters.
P.S. All the exercises and information on this site are free for you – all I ask is that you like or share this post with your friends. If you have any questions or comments please use the comments box below and I will do my best to help.