Writing Step 4: Creating Your Characters

Writing Step 4: Creating Your Characters
Written by: Ben Marroquin

Every story needs good, strange, unique, and interesting characters. Your characters can be human, robotic, animalistic, spirits, magical, monstrous; they can even be toys or whatever your mind thinks up. You should know the following about your characters:

Name: Names can be symbolic and/or easy to pronounce. You should definitely use names you like. For articles on naming characters visit http://teenwriting.about.com/od/characternames/ Need help in finding a name for your characters then visit http://www.babynames.com/

Physical Appearance: Is the character short or tall? Old or Young? Fat or thin? Athletic or Bookish? Red hair or blonde or brunette? Number of eyes, arms, legs, limbs, etc…? Eye color, style of clothes, etc… Write a brief overview of what each of your main characters look like.

Lifestyle and Attitude: Is your character a jock or a science whiz or a beauty queen or a goth or a warrior or a farmer and so on. Is your character quick to anger or laid back. Is your character honest or a greedy thief or brave warrior or a heartless killer or worse… how does your character behave.

History: Write a brief summary about your characters past; where they’re from, what kind of family they come from, and a few big events that helped shaped them from their past.

Uniqueness/Special Abilities: What makes your character unique? Is it the way they talk, the way they dress, a physical scar or tattoo, do they see dead people, can play a musical instrument, or is it something else that no one else shares.

Goals: What is the characters goal in the story? Is it to gain world power, conquer death, go on a quest, battle evil, find treasure, and so on. Is the character willing to do anything in order to achieve their goal? Murder, steal, lie, cheat, and so on.

Here’s an article on character development:
How To Bring Characters to Life
From Niko Silvester,
Your Guide to Creative Writing for Teens.

Ideally, fictional characters should seem to have lives and existences beyond the novel or story that they appear in, but how can a writer accomplish this task? Below, you’ll find ways to make characters more real, to make them “sit up and start to breathe on their own,” as writer Jack Hodgins says.

Difficulty: N/A
Time Required: As long as it takes
Here’s How:

1. Find the right name. A character’s name can say a lot about them, whether you choose a name with symbolic meaning, or just one that has a good sound. Quite often, characters seem to arrive already named, but sometimes it can take forever to find the perfect thing to call them. The wrong name will probably irritate you, and will never seem quite right, so take the time to choose one that fits.

2. Give the character a history. Even if you never mention a character’s past in the novel or story, the fact that they have one will make the character more alive for you — and that will translate into a more realistic character for the reader. Think about where the character came from. Where did they grow up? What was their childhood like? What things have happened to them?

3. Consider physical appearance. Is your character short or tall? What colour is their hair? Their eyes? These are all details that may or may not make it onto the page, but YOU need to know them. Having a concrete look for a character gives you something to picture while you write about them. Image how hard it would be to write about someone you can’t even picture.

4. Give them a sense of style. We all make judgments of some kind about people based on what they look like. One person’s clothing may tell us they are a Goth, while another person may wear only the most expensive designer fashions. Figure out what kind of clothing and accessories your character wears and why. What does their clothing say about them and what do THEY think it says?

5. Think about tastes. What things does your character like and dislike? What are their favourite foods and colours? The things a person likes can say a lot about them; we may gain hints about their history and psychology. Again, how much of this information you will use in the piece of fiction you write will vary, but knowing your character well means you can write more effectively.

6. Find a unique manner of speaking. While you don’t want every character to have strange vocal quirks or a bizarre vocabulary, making each person speak in a subtly different way helps make each character distinct. Ideally, you should be able to tell which character is speaking without looking at the dialogue tags, but you also don’t want to exaggerate their uniqueness.

7. Think about behaviour and mannerisms. Do you have some little gesture you make when you’re nervous? Do you tilt your head or stick out the end of your tongue when you concentrate? Everyone has little quirks and mannerisms, and so should your characters. As with everything else, you don’t want to overdo it, but a unique gesture or repeated mannerism can give a character more personality.

1. Take your time and really think about your characters.
2. Don’t overdo any of the techniques.
3. Remember that many characteristics will appear as you write; you don’t have to fully develop a character before you write about them.
4. You don’t have to use every detail that you discover/invent.
For more articles on character development visit http://teenwriting.about.com/od/characters/

Character Creation Worksheet
Created by: Ben Marroquin

My Characters
Name________________________________ Age_____ Gender________
Color of Eyes _____________ Hair _________ Skin/Fur _____________
Place of Birth ____________________ City/Town __________________
Job or Trade _________________________________________________
Clubs, Clans, or Organizations __________________________________
Physical Apperance and Style ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Attitude ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Uniqueness/Special Abilities _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Family _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
History ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Goals _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

About storymask

My name is Ben Marroquin. I enjoy reading, drawing (even though I'm not very good at it), music, movies, and writing. I've always had an over-active imagination so I've decided to go ahead and start putting down some of my imaginings on "paper"... so to speak. My hope is to develop a story that I can one day publish into a novel. Hope you enjoy my site. View all posts by storymask

4 responses to “Writing Step 4: Creating Your Characters

  • newmw

    Definitely very usefull info (part 1-4), I’m also a fiction writer myself and character definition is such an important part. I often write in a very expressionistic way (think Kafka), where characters are constantly struggling to find what they really are. The thoughts of the character come to life before his eyes. Anyway, good info!

  • storymask

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m glad youfind it useful. This is basically the system I used for my characters in Seraph Hunters. Although, there are a couple whose goals will come to me when I’ve fleshed them out more in my writing. 🙂 I better get started on Part 5.

  • Neil Street

    As per Ben’s suggestion, I wanted to drop in here a link to a website that is a great resource for names: http://www.babynamesgarden.com

    I originally mis-posted (is that a word?) the comment in another section. At least Ben liked the resource!

    Neil Street

  • Priscilla L. Martin

    This is very helpful story writing tips for me. I am just starting out, so, I am glad I stopped here.

    Priscilla L. Martin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: