Character Troubleshooting

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Beginning, Characters, Help, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Often times I am asked by people– how do you come up with so many different characters with so many personalities. My answer is usually given with a smirk and/or chuckle:

Because I have so many wonderful people running around my head.” 

Never am I taken seriously with that statement– yet here’s the irony. Despite the chuckle or smirk, I am being 100% serious.

Every day we come into contact with several different personalities, some unable to be placed in a category. Friends, Family, Teachers, Peers, Co-workers, Editors, Publishers, Random people at the train station asking for a lighter, or just wondering what time it is. Our lives are constantly looking at different people– yet when we authors try to write– all we see is a school of oddly dressed fish. Zero personalities stand out to be remembered.

When we try to pull up the images in our minds of how someone stood, they’re composure etc, they end up as faceless bodies– or i could just be completely way off– after all aren’t all Authors hermits that hide in the houses and sleep during the day writing fervently at night. Burning the mid night oil as the phrase goes.

Well, in my case, this author doesn’t have the luxury or the funds to burn any oil– there for i have to work at a “real-job” to bring home the bacon. So that forces me to be out in the general public– maybe more often then i’d like to be. However, that doesn’t mean i have an eidetic memory; I’m not Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal minds.. far from it. Heck I sometimes forget which direction to go in the local mall, and wind up having to walk Around the outside to figure out where I am going.

So how is it that i remember actions, reactions, and even more difficult, Personality traits.

Well, I don’t– at least not in the sense that you may be thinking. Let me explain;

I first use the scene setting as my first clue to what is going on.

  1.  Train station? I have a couple thousand of those trips,
  2. High school– I spent four years there, and had the rather agonizing experience of going to four DIFFERENT high schools.
  3. Your character at a dance club?
  4. Police station?
  5.  Hair dresser?
  6. Mall (of any size or shape)

I try to stick to where i have been, and what I have done ; drawing off of my own personal memory for the setting. This allows me to fill in the background noise, the faceless mash of the crowd, and even the description of the scenery it self. It’s always a lot easier to write about somewhere you have been, then somewhere you would like to go. (You can also always expand on this later.)

“But that doesn’t help me create a character from scratch! Why is your title so misleading!

Don’t fret, I was getting there. The reason why i listed setting first, is before you have a character you should at very least have an idea about what you want to write– what kind of story, and what scene’s (or places) are you going to most likely find in said story. You don’t have to have a complete plot web (indeed if you do, then you already have a character{or 12}– and all you need is a name.).

We’re talking the bare bones here. Okay, now the next question is, what KIND of character do you want?

  1. Dynamic
  2. Static
  3. Round
  4. Flat
  5. Stock

Are they going to be:

  1. Major or central characters
  2. Minor characters
  3. Protagonist –
  4. Antagonist
  5. Anti-Hero
  6. Foil
  7. Symbolic

These are important questions to ask, because once you know the answers to these two questions, then you know how much detail you need for this character– are they nameless and just in passing; Eg, the jerk that rams into your self conscious Protagonist, knocking him/her to the ground? Are they the Main Antagonist who is going to be the subject of the Self couscous shy Protagonist’s torment in the book– Are BOTH characters Rounded? Dynamic? Are the polar opposites? Are they two-bit players in a larger pond that has nothing to do with them?

Just like every person is Different, every character should reflect that in fiction. Not everyone falls into the stereo types, BUT there are enough people in the world to make the Stock “Mad Scientist” Scheme a viable option.

Before you get all tangled up in the Creation of your character- Name Age, DOB, DOD, Height Weight, Ect ect ect. Ask your self the above, and figure out which number applies to your character. That Will make it a crap tone easier to figure out the next step. (Post to come soon)

(For those of you who do not remember these terms presented from high school– or are still new to the writing game Check out my New Page “What the Heck are These” )

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