Archive for the ‘Characters’ Category

Creating The Face

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Beginning, Characters, Help, Writing
Tags: , , ,

character traits

This is the second installment of my advice to Character Troubleshooting.

So, You’ve thought about the setting of your book (This includes but is not limited to, the era of your novel– Is it based in history somewhere, is it present, or even future?); And you’ve even thought about what kind of character you want. (Are they Dynamic personalities? Flat? Round? Are they The Protagonist, Antagonist, Anti-Hero?) So, now that you know that, the next step is to create the FACE of your character.

I am sure by now a lot of you are reading this with a strange look on your own faces wondering what kind of drugs I am on. Honestly I’m not on any–  just hear me out.

The reason I say this is because a lot of Authors that I know, create their characters from the NAME down. To me, this is the HARDEST way to create a character, because what if your character doesn’t at the end of the day suit their name? All those hours looking for a name that you really like, and holds what you want, would then be wasted. (well at very least wasted in this effort– if you have characters, or names you like keep them handy you never know when they’ll be useful.)

Now that I have explained the why– lets get down to business.

First things first; What is your characters Ethnic Background?

This is vastly important to note, even if it’s to your self, because not everyone holds similar facial features. (Beyond that of two eyes, two ears, one nose and one mouth that is…) For instance, if your character is of an Asian ethnic origin, that will help determine they’re height, the average weight, their coloring. (Most Asian’s have dark hair, and dark eyes though this isn’t ALWAYS the case, especially with hair dye`s and contact lenses– but we won`t complicate things.)

So, go a head, pick your ethnic type. Here is a  page I have created as a Quick Reference to sites I find useful for all different types of references that don’t exactly fit into the other drop-down categories.

Lets take a second to list what we’ve done so far,

  • Thought about the setting (When/Where)
  • Thought about Personality Types
  • Role the character is to play in the story
  • Ethnic Origin of the character*.

Given all the information you have compiled for this character you can now:

  • Give a Height
  • Give a Weight
  • Body Type
  • Hair& Eye Color (With out worrying over Hair style or Contact lenses for a moment)
  • Give a Generalized Facial Profile (This is the height of cheek bones, Broadness of the Brow line, The Shape of the head Etc)

You have now built from the ground up, a person- and it’s easy to give a person a Name– Especially when you know what they’re like. It’s no different then giving your family members Nicknames– Only your character isn’t going to be named Marshmallow-butt.

But what about all that work in figure out the Personality Type?! 

This is a critical part of your character’s creation. It’s the Heart and Soul of the character as it where. This part of the process (done early on in the creation process) serves three roles.

  1. The Role: Establishing the importance of the character. It’s important to know where your character is going to sit in the story line, as without knowing this you could wind up wasting valuable writing time making 500 characters that won’t be noticed in your book for more then a few lines. If this character your creating isn’t going to be important in the current book your writing, then it’s alright to blur the image of the character for the reader– after all you don’t want to confuse your readers with useless information. Too many names creates chaos.
  2. The Presence: Given the personality type you have chosen, this enhances the presence of your characters. Are they the calm silent type? Possibly a soldier? Well if they have a scar on their face– or a noticeable limp, this is a good way to give Back ground AND add to the Basic profile of your character.
  3. The Naming Process: With all the information on the personality type of your character, you have narrowed the list of names for your characters. From Personal experience, And reading experience  I have found that the personality more often then not goes along with the name. In other words, since you now know the way your character thinks (given the personality) you can choose a name that summarizes the character. For example  a character who is a pacifist, or even maybe a coward probably shouldn’t have a name that reflects being a warrior.

Just one last note on Name’s, Remember how I mentioned that the Ethnic Origin of your character can help you pick your character’s name? Well for Instance, if your character hails from japan- then your character isn’t likely to be named Elizabeth. Yuki is a more likely name. You can find a number of Helpful links to find names in My Names Page.

If your having trouble finding a name, you can apply all the different tactics that I gave you in my post Pen Names R Us. All those tactics apply to any naming endeavour that you may find along the road of your own writing. Best of Luck!~

Don’t forget to comment down below, and let other readers know what you have done to create your characters.

Always Writing,

FOOTER2

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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” )