Background Check

Background Check

A Lesson by guy drori

The birth of a new character . . .


Ever laugh from a character's witty comment? Ha! Roll your eyes from a silly mistake a character committed? Mmm, we've all been there. Yet how are those characters created, and what makes them seem real?


For their creators, they are more than two-dimensional fictional characters on a piece of paper. They are real humans - almost part of the writer; raised and taken care of by the writer. In a way, they are like his children. After all, they were literally created by his fingers that punched the keyboard for months or years. For a writer to kill one of his characters is definitely a challenging task - one that many do not understand. Yet he is merely a fictional person, is he not? Well, not to his inventor. 


A blank page. 


Where do you begin your story? And so you start to type about a character named Lucy, or Daniel, or whoever you just thought of, who does this and that with him and her - improvising as you go along without a plan. At one point, you feel disconnected from the ones you write about. Your characters seems distant - unattached to you. You won't mind killing them, for you do not relate to them in any way. Why the hell not? Let's kill! Allow her to push him from the roof! Let him grab a knife and stab her. Who cares? Well, of course you won't mind! Did you do a background check?


Characters are essential tools in every story. They bring progress, inspiration and interest. Without them, stories will seem dull and static. For characters to contribute interest or inspiration to a story in order to compel readers, the writer must feel connected to his characters when he writes about them. Hence, simply thinking of a character's name, gender, age and other basic information is not enough. Before you impulsively type away about characters you thought of merely minutes ago, it is important you do a background check. Why? Because not knowing anything about your characters, or solely being aware of their basic biography will leave you disconnected from them. Therefore, prior bringing your characters to life, I advise you know them better than they know themselves. How?


Basic information, as I have stated, is not enough, yet definitely required, and is the first step to creating a character. The nine most fundamental details about a character, in my opinion, is:  First/last name, gender, age, birth date, address, parents, siblings, profession and religion.


A second important aspect of characters is personality, which is directly related to physical traits. As with real people, personality usually determines clothing style. A bookworm nerd will most likely not wear a leather jacket. Other physical characteristics, such as tone of voice, often fit certain traits. A confident, fearless man will probably speak in a deep, slow pace. It is advised you write five positive and five negative personality traits. 


The third step you can follow is writing about your characters' physical appearance. How can you write about someone and feel connected to him or her if you do not know their eye color, skin tone, or clothing style? I advise that the physical appearance includes the following eight at least:

Hair color, eye color, skin color, height, weight (fat/skinny, tall short is enough) clothing style, tone of voice (deep, loud . . .) and other (in which you mention glasses, beauty mark, tattoos, scars, etc.)


The fourth step is a 'Q & A.' What is a Q & A and what should it include? Simply put - it is a series of 30 questions (less is often too little and more might be too much) you ask your characters. After you type the questions you came up with, you write the answers as though the characters reply. For example: "What is your favorite movie?" Then you respond as though one of your characters answers. "My favorite movie is Lord of the Rings, obviously." "One supernatural power?" "Flying!"


The last, fifth step, usually easier to write after the first four had been written, is a background story, including your character's present schedule. A good example is the following:

* Lucy, 26 six year old female.

* Finished high-school. 

* Her parents divorced when she was fifteen. 

* Her best friend since seventh grade is Rachel. 

* Lucy runs 3 times a week, and goes to visit her brother every Saturday on a regular basis.

* She watches an episode of 'Friends' every Monday.


Writing the fifth step with asterisks or numbers and not a single paragraph can aid in preventing confusion for it is more organized.


It is important to note that even if certain information such as religion is not relevant to your story, it is still crucial that you as the writer - the inventor of your characters, knows such things. The more you know about your characters, the more you will feel connected to them - ultimately making them seem more real. If you have a character that solely appears in one chapter or does not contribute to the story in any significant way, then applying all the five steps to him might be a waste of time.


It goes without saying that you can add more steps of your own. The more the better, and stay creative! Yet personally, these are the five minimal requirements I make for myself before bringing a new character to life. Changes are bound to occur along the way. Many times I have changed my characters' hair color, personality traits and background story. Typing such things once does not make them permanent. Always revise when you feel it is necessary.


Good luck, and have a blast with your new children!

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Added on October 20, 2016
Last Updated on October 23, 2016

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guy drori
guy drori

What is life without art? I've been writing since I was 8 years old, and it is my main passion. I love inspiring other people as much as being inspired by others, and when my work touches the crowd I ..