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How do you start with characters. What's the process for Characters Creation. (1 Viewer)

Just my process; people go about this different ways:

A lot of idea generation for characters happens subconsciously. Snippets of tropes, characters, occasionally real people, floating around with general feelings and themes. Some of these snippets start to join up and become people; somebody "appears" in my head. They're not fully formed, but a sketch is there. Then I consciously flesh them out a bit, filling in the necessary bits. But not too much. I generally plop them in the story before I add too much extra "stuff;" otherwise being true to the character becomes too much of a bother and they don't 'weave' well into the story framework.

But that's the stories that start with characters. Many of my stories start with feelings or plot elements. With these, I just put in characters as I write, as needed. So if I start a story about someone who stumbles across something strange (if the focus is on the strangeness), I'll usually make my protagonist an ordinary person (better contrast). Other stories need more colorful characters -- when I knew I wanted to write a story where a fire-breathing dinosaur broke into reality, I needed a character to 'facilitate' that, somebody who the world would view as insane. I create the character within the structure of their story, and let the story build them as I go, if that makes sense.

Practical advice, if that's what you're looking for: I daydream. A lot. It's a good way to come up with and work through story "stuff" before trying to pour that stuff into a form. I would also recommend reading deeply and thoughtfully, and mulling creatively over everything you absorb, through reading or otherwise. I got an idea for a whole set of characters from reading the Wikipedia page on the Oneness Pentecostal movement.
 

Davinci

Senior Member
Just my process; people go about this different ways:

A lot of idea generation for characters happens subconsciously. Snippets of tropes, characters, occasionally real people, floating around with general feelings and themes. Some of these snippets start to join up and become people; somebody "appears" in my head. They're not fully formed, but a sketch is there. Then I consciously flesh them out a bit, filling in the necessary bits. But not too much. I generally plop them in the story before I add too much extra "stuff;" otherwise being true to the character becomes too much of a bother and they don't 'weave' well into the story framework.

But that's the stories that start with characters. Many of my stories start with feelings or plot elements. With these, I just put in characters as I write, as needed. So if I start a story about someone who stumbles across something strange (if the focus is on the strangeness), I'll usually make my protagonist an ordinary person (better contrast). Other stories need more colorful characters -- when I knew I wanted to write a story where a fire-breathing dinosaur broke into reality, I needed a character to 'facilitate' that, somebody who the world would view as insane. I create the character within the structure of their story, and let the story build them as I go, if that makes sense.

Practical advice, if that's what you're looking for: I daydream. A lot. It's a good way to come up with and work through story "stuff" before trying to pour that stuff into a form. I would also recommend reading deeply and thoughtfully, and mulling creatively over everything you absorb, through reading or otherwise. I got an idea for a whole set of characters from reading the Wikipedia page on the Oneness Pentecostal movement.
Amazing...
Thank You so much for your time
i got what you mean :)
Grateful Grateful
Thanks
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Step one: have some imaginary friends that have been with you since childhood :)

Seriously, often for me it starts with a name. And that can come from anywhere - I was watching some crummy reality TV programme the other day (I write SFF) and got a name for a character from some event / throwaway comment on that. Then I mentally added to him, gave him some skills, a personality. But it all comes from the name generally.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I push my character through the story, and every event shapes them. I just make an on the spot decision. I need conflict here, so I'm going to give my character a trait that causes that conflict. Once the character has been honed by the story, I edit the story and add in the required traits to make sure my character is consistent throughout the story.
 

Terra

Senior Member
Since joining WF and digging into the archives of character development threads, I've come to realize how important it is to really know the characters ... to understand his/her way of thinking, weaknesses, strengths, and so on. I need to spend time with my characters, so I will talk to her (my MC's tend to be female) which possibly sounds borderline crazy. I spend an enormous amount of time by myself so it's easy to get to know my characters by holding 'real life' conversations with them.

I also love observing people who cross my path in life, from the teller at the grocery store to my friends and family ... for instance, my gramma twiddled her thumbs, my ex-boss would Always say "sorry, but .....", the lady at the grocery store wore her glasses on the tip of her nose and would repeatedly nod depending on what she was looking at (my neck got sore watching her). These little things we observe in our everyday experiences are like a tickle trunk of character personalities and traits.

The best resource for me is most definitely the older threads in this forum, and the Plot and Character Development forum. I found templates for character bibles, youtube videos, and discussions like this which help immensely. Character creation has become easier and more fun once I figured out what works for me.
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
I start by the background of where they came from in the world and the environment that they grew up in. My soldier being brought up in a middle-income Russian household with a military tradition will have already lived a very different life to my Indian pilot who grew up skirting the slums of Chennai. People are shaped by their experiences, and their experiences come from the environment they grew up in.

Once I've determined where the character comes from and their general background, I then think up a name that is both authentic to the place yet also try to make it sound memorable. I'll often scour the internet for "unusual surnames Russia," for instance, with my soldier.

Joe Abercrombie is always going to stick in your head more than Joe Smith, after all.

Then I'll try and look for traits to define them with, that might come from their backgrounds or environment. Again, my Russian soldier is very forthright and honest with his opinions, due to his family and upbringing. My Indian pilot has had to learn to be resourceful, extremely determined, and single-minded to get out of the life she once had. As a result, her ambition and unrelenting determination is both her greatest strength and her biggest failing.

I then try to humanize them. Readers love connecting with characters. Another example - my corporate spy grew up being a burglar and ended up putting his talents to good use when he finally turned his life around. But since he started trying to do it professionally he looked for inspiration, and fell in love with James Bond. Now, he's a James Bond wannabe, which most guys have daydreamed of at some point in their life, making him very relatable.
The fun comes from him trying to do the James Bond cliches he's seen, of "A martini, shaken, not stirred." But he always falls flat on his face when it fails "Im sorry, sir, we do not do customized drinks here,..." for example. We've all wanted to say that to a bartender. So while he fails at matching James Bond's suarve cool, he then makes up for it when doing his actual job. He's living the James Bond dream and you love him for it.

So I find building from their backgrounds up and imagining their lives (and then throwing in setbacks that shaped them) and adding to them with hopes, dreams, and inspirations really makes them become well-rounded and well-defined characters. I love them the more I add to them. Eventually, it even boils down to how they each individually speak, which then helps with dialogue standing out as sounding more authentic.

When you can tell characters apart from their dialogue without needing dialogue beats, that, for me, is when you know you've put a good amount of effort into loving them and building them.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
The novel I'm currently outlining is my first foray into a (relatively) contemporary setting, or at least with "normal" contemporary people--even though I'm going to set it either in the 1930s or 1950s--I have a fun librarian character to help the MC's brother with research, and to do that I need to get rid of the internet.

I have a cast of 26 including the MC, and I wanted names fast since I was ready to start making plot notes. I'd already filled in character types from a list of 101 archetypes, and those give me ideas for how the characters are going to behave. Then I gave each archetype a role in the story. For example, for the "battle-axe", I decided to make the rich lady's attorney--domineering, no-nonsense, ultra-competent. One of my archetypes was "Grande dame"-- perfect for the primary murder victim. "Inventor"--her oldest son who creates products for the family business. "Mother's Boy"--her youngest, a lax individual with only a titular presence in the business, but fierce loyalty to his mother. A "psychic/mystic"--Hey! Let's have a seance and see if we can talk to the Grande Dame about the missing will! (And while we're at it, kill her too!)

I found a name generator, which was helpful. You fill in a few parameters about the character you want to name, including country/heritage, and how many names you want in a list to choose from:

It didn't take long to have names for all the characters, and I came up with a couple of interesting names I'd never have thought of myself, such as Clemence for the rich lady who is the first murder victim.

I'm filling in the personalities according to what I need. Who goes around irresponsibly accusing EVERYONE of the murder(s)? Who is the real murderer, and why? Who gives my investigator sage advice? Who's his love interest? Who's the corporate spy, and what is her cover? What role does the con-artist have in all of this?

Their personalities are developing as I plot the story, and will fill in more when they hit the page for real. But the most important question for me, as noted, is "What do I need this character to do?" Then I can decide how they act, who they like, who they dislike, how brave (or not), calm or excitable--knowing what I need them to do in the story makes all of that easier to define.
 
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LCLee

Financial Supporter
My character development is a little different in that I have something to say, and I need characters to say it for me. For instance, I wanted to write about the impact Christopher Columbus had on the Caribbean, and I tried to have the French farmers say it, but they could be biased, so I thought, hey a priest would work, but they were often in charge of controlling the narrative, so I decided on a nun that would plop into the middle of the turmoil, and that was the birth of my MC, who was named Elizabeth at birth, but took on a new name as a nun of Sister Mary Andree La Roux. The only nuns being sent to the Caribbean in that time line were from the Ursuline Sisters outside Paris. Elizabeth needed to start out naïve and poor, so I brought her from a Celtic Nation of Brittany, and there you have it. That is one character, now I have fifteen more to go.
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
I'm actually in the middle of this bit of my novel now. 13k words in and I've finally decided to flesh my characters out.

How am I doing it? Not entirely sure yet... but I've watched a lot of writing youtube, to name a few: Alexa Dunn, Overly Sarcastic Production, and recently Diane Callahan, because I can't write at work without everyone looking over my shoulder, so they are my next best thing.

Anyway, I've decided to figure out what my characters fear, how they react when angry, when happy, and, this is mainly for the plot too, but their stakes in the story and why that's their stakes. And of course, their motivation, and why it changes, and what changes.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I start with the protagonist and the plot. Because I like to write a good portion of the story in dialogue, I need to have the right characters for the various conversations she needs to have to tell the story. For example, if she needs a close friend to talk about her love interest or a colleague to talk about work. Then once I've figured out various settings and who all needs to be there for the dialogue, I focus on each character. One page per character minimum and I like to write it out in longhand.

For each character, I set out nationality, parents, education, age, and key achievements. Those things generally drive motivations and vulnerabilities. I use real-life people for inspiration, and Wikipedia is my mainstay for research. Sometimes I'm not sure who will be a positive or negative force, but typically I don't write villains or heroes, because life just isn't that black and white. I try to have everyone screw up in some sort of way. I guess that's just how I see the world. So the characters from there just live their lives and I develop their personalities as I go.
 
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JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
First, you need an individual. This is the leading character through which readers will follow your story.

Then you need a circumstance. This is where they're standing in life at the point the story begins.

Then you need a problem. This is what moves your character from the familiar world that has thus far shaped them.

Everything else that writers tend to obsess over is secondary. You can sort out their favorite music, hair and eye color, build, height, and mode of dress later, as none of these factors carry the story (barring any feature that sets them immediately apart...I'm not personally a great fan of this method, but it can sometimes be used to good effect). Your heroine will not save the world on account of being a willowy blonde with emerald green eyes any more than your hero will prevail because he listens solely to '80s grunge, for instance.

Then you take this strange and unformed creature and test it. You give it things that make it happy. You put it in circumstances where it cannot succeed. You expose it to heat, cold, and mild radiation in the interest of seeing what it will do.

And then, when you have a general idea, you set it loose in a story and hope for the best.
 
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ironpony

Senior Member
This is just my experience, but usually I come up with a premise before I come up with a character so far. Then after the premise, I try to come up with themes for that premise. Then after that, I try to come up with the best characters to fit those themes, for that premise.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
I generally start with looking at the roles I want to have in the story. Next I assign a personality, strengths and weaknesses to the characters, with emphasis on how they will interact in positive and negative ways with each other. I then think of how they look and decide on names.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
I usually think of what themes I want for my premise, and try come up with characters that would best serve those themes, if that makes sense.
 

Joker

Senior Member
First, you need an individual. This is the leading character through which readers will follow your story.

Then you need a circumstance. This is where they're standing in life at the point the story begins.

Then you need a problem. This is what moves your character from the familiar world that has thus far shaped them.

Everything else that writers tend to obsess over is secondary. You can sort out their favorite music, hair and eye color, build, height, and mode of dress later, as none of these factors carry the story (barring any feature that sets them immediately apart...I'm not personally a great fan of this method, but it can sometimes be used to good effect). Your heroine will not save the world on account of being a willowy blonde with emerald green eyes any more than your hero will prevail because he listens solely to '80s grunge, for instance.

Then you take this strange and unformed creature and test it. You give it things that make it happy. You put it in circumstances where it cannot succeed. You expose it to heat, cold, and mild radiation in the interest of seeing what it will do.

And then, when you have a general idea, you set it loose in a story and hope for the best.

Grunge was 90s, not 80s :cool:

I agree with this. I usually work backwards from a role I need fulfilled in the story, not the other way around. People are shaped by their circumstances anyways, and it makes plotting much easier.
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
....Sorry, I can't help. For me they just appear in my head. Primarily they come from ideas I wish to express or certain personality traits I want to show more predominately. For example, there's a guy who I want to use to express my hatred for the idea "take him down a peg." This man is arrogant and loves himself, but instead of being humiliated, he learns to love people as he loves himself. To bring everyone else up a peg, as it were.

But that's putting words to a process that happens automatically. Characters jump out of nowhere for me, and it's more a process of discovering who they already are rather than consciously forming them.
 

voltigeur

WF Veterans
I have 2 ways. First the needs of the novel. This happens almost simultaneously. When i get the inspiration of a plot I get the ideas the ideas of the charaters comes with it.

When I did theatre I was trained in the method and that involved character back story. So i very quickly list some facts of the character. I write about professionals so they have the skills they need but don't always know how to apply those skills. Characters have to be "round". While characters should be likeable they are more interesting if there are some things that readers won't like. You don't need readers to love a character, they just need to be willing to root for them.

One fun way to do it is using role playing games. I use GURPS, so I give myself a budget of 100 points and then look up the traits, skills the character needs to succeed in the story. When I find out I need say 135 points to get all the good stuff, then I take on bad character traits. This is one way of making characters round.
 
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