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 Creating A Character

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Ke'ak
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Number of posts : 109
Age : 33
Location : Western USA
Registration date : 2007-05-03

PostSubject: Creating A Character   Tue Jun 12, 2007 2:56 pm

Why is it that almost all characters act/think/feel exactly the same? Why is it that the only way that we can seem to make our characters different is through different eye color, or different hairstyle? Why can we not find a way to create unique, believable and relatable characters, but instead are constantly swimming through a sea of clones?

I believe the answer lies somewhere in the basics of creating a character. Far too often, we allow ourselves to create characters based solely on appearance, or some other single trait that really isn't the character, but simply a minor part of it. My attempt here will be to relate tools to help you to create believable, unique characters that can be used not only in this forum, (for this is a beginning, not an end), but really in any place or project that you may choose to pursue. Here goes.

In this essay, "he" represents he, she or it. It's just too redundant to go through and write them all.

Who? - Developing a Fictional Personality

This is the basic, core root of the character. Answering these questions will help you to "flesh out" a character that you may have in mind. It's not just a magic process, you have to use your head too, but these questions can help you have a basic foundation to work from. So, with your character in mind, answer the following:

1. Is he right-handed, or left-handed?
2. What color of hair?
3. What color of eyes?
4. What side of the bed does he sleep on?
5. What is his favorite food?
6. What is his favorite smell?
7. What is his relationship to his father?
8. What is his relationship to his mother?
9. What are his relationships to other family members (siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc?)
10. What does he love?
11. What does he hate?
12. What is his favorite color?
13. What would he do with a free afternoon?
14. What relationships does he have with others (outside of family)?
15. Which way does he roll out of bed in the morning?
16. Which shoe does he put on first?
17. What does rain make him think of?
18. What is his favorite time of the day?
19. What is his favorite season of the year?
20. What does he live for?
21. What injuries has he had in the past?
22. What does he do when no one is around?
23. What is his sexual orientation?
24. Why, why, why, why, why?


Now, there are others. Some of these would take a little longer than you might think, and some might seem to you quite redundant. However, I can promise you that as you go through these, as well as coming up with more questions to ask yourself about your new "creation", your characters will become deeper, more real. They will cease to become simply letters on a page and will begin to become almost real to you. Think about the characters that you see in movies, that you read about in books, etc. You can always tell when you've connected with a character, in that you are almost worried about what will happen to them, or are excited when good fortune goes their way. You can also, on the flipside, tell when the writer has created simply a paper-cut-out of a character, and you simply care nothing for that "person."

Why and When? - Detailing a History

Think about your own life. In the ten to one hundred years that you've been alive, you've had myriads of experiences, countless little instances in your life where things have affected you, have bothered you, have lifted you, hurt you, or strengthened you. When you're creating a character, you need to decide what has happened to your new creation. You don't necessarily need to detail it quite as well as your own life, but a basic history along with certain specific details is essential.

First off, using the list above, notice the personal history that you've already created. You have everything from smells to colors to family and friends to injuries and religion. Now is the time to sort through these and decide the reasons for each of these things, and decide when that occurred. For example, we'll create a character, and name him Allen. Now, let's run through the exercise with question number 12 from above:

12. What is his favorite color?

Blue

Why?

Blue is the color of the interior of his first car. He loved that car, and would clean it almost obsessively. Because he was so familiar with that car's color, it became his favorite.

When?

Allen got his first car from his parents when he was sixteen-and-a-half years old. They gave it to him to borrow, if he would pay the insurance, gas, and repairs, but it was essentially his.


Does that make sense? Suddenly we have a small bit of history behind what is otherwise a trivial fact - Allen's favorite color is blue. We also have something of a base to work with, in that we know that in Allen's personal history, anyone who knew him when he was sixteen would know that he had a car with a blue interior, and they could relate to it, or that little detail may play out later in the story. It may seem insignificant, but sometimes the places in a story where you get "stuck" could really be smoothed out if you really had a background for your characters actions and personality.

A Word of Advice - And some resources

I hope that these things can help. I've always enjoyed writing, and I love to do it. I hope that I may continue to use writing in my own career. You truly reap what you sow, and when you put a little work into your characters, it will go a long way towards helping you bring a more full, rich, and personal flavor to your stories. For some extra information that I've found helpful as I've done my years of writing, I would recommend the following:

Teen Writing (http://teenwriting.about.com/)- an excellent source of simple writing tips and teachings
OSC's Tips (http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/index.shtml) - OSC has an excellent group of little tips and tricks that will help

Thanks for listening, and hope that it helped!

-Ke'ak
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