Lions and Tigers and Characters, oh my.

Lions and Tigers and Characters, oh my.

A Lesson by -Insertnamehere-

Just read.


I think the worst story I could read is one with an undeveloped character, one with a poor character (poor being badly made up), and one without any emotional connection to. People think creating a character is easy to make up. He has dark hair, olive toned skin, blue eyes, and his name is Todd. Done. Um, no. Not done. You aren't even 1/4 of the way through the process yet.
The truth is, creating a character takes a very long time, if you want it to be good. But you should know straight off the bat, that if you aren't good at connecting to a character, then this isn't going to work for you. I'm going to use an example from the Twilight books (oh god I hate them), just don't judge me. The term that Stephanie Meyer uses in that book is imprinting. Which is exactly the same term I'm going to use right now for your character. This character that you are creating, should be your essence, your lover, your friend, whatever they need to be to make you understand them better. My main character in the novel I'm writing off of Writers Cafe (the one I'd like to publish), I was for a period of time. I lived the life my main character lived. I felt what my main character felt, I did what my main character did, and thought about all of the past memories they might have had that don't even matter to my story. I'm not saying you need to go that drastic, heaven forbid, I recommend you don't (it got me into quite a pickle). But there is a point in every novel, when you stop writing it, and your character takes over. I'm guessing this is easier in first person, but I've never written in 3rd person before (I don't like it), so I wouldn't know. But you should in a way, be guessing what's coming next in your story, or why your character decided to cheat instead of just say they loved their partner. After all, this story is about them, it revolves around them, it is them.
So, let's begin the process shall we?
Do not ever look up a picture, or make a picture of what your character looks like. Everyone will see them differently. For me, when I read a story, I never actually have a face for the characters. It's hard to explain. You see them, but yet their face is still kind of hazy. When I saw the Twilight movie, I couldn't re-read the books because Kirsten Stewart and Rob Patterson's face ruined it for me. I hate knowing what everyone looks like. There's a mystery in what you imagine them looking like. You should however, have an idea about their hair color, etc. You do have to give the reader an explanation as to those kinds of things, or else they'll never have an idea. You can't always leave everything up to the full imagination. Sometimes these small things (hair color, eye color, etc) I come up with last, depending on how I view them as a person.
In the eighth grade, my teacher had us spend a whole period coming up with our characters for our fiction unit. My partner turns to me about 1/3 of the way through and asks me, "Zoe, do you brush your teeth before or after you eat breakfast?" I asked him why he asked, and he replied with, "Well I'm trying to figure out what's normal so I can have my character do that."
Ehm. It's not about what the "norm" is, or what other people do regularly. It's what your character does. I could brush my teeth before breakfast because I like to eat on my way to school. But my character could brush their teeth after breakfast so they don't have leftover food in their teeth. Badda boom badda bing? This is about who your character is and what they prefer, not about you or anyone else. That's different for experiences. It is much easier to write something that your character has gone through if you have gone through it yourself, because you know how it feels, etc. For me, it is not hard to have my character like something I hate or hate something I like. I'm the kind of person that always looks at both sides of things. Besides, maybe your character doesn't have to have a good reason. That could just be them.
Names, are always easy for me. I spend hours looking for them, but I think it's the best part of making a character. Look on baby names, they have the best ones. Don't be afraid to go simple. Simple does not mean plain. Don't be afraid to go crazy either. I always like those names best, truthfully. The name is always the first thing I pick. It's hard for me to say whether or not that is a good thing, but I guess it's whichever works best for you. You could create the character and then come up with a good name off of that, or come up with the name and come up with a good character. DON'T, I repeat, DON'T, no matter how hard it may be, base your characters personality off of the name. A girl could be named Gloria, for example. What is the first personality type that comes to your mind? Don't use it. That's not your character, is it? Who knows, you haven't exactly created them yet. I know I confuse myself too sometimes.
You should always spend lots of time on your character before beginning your story. It's like how when you've finished your book, you should put it in a drawer and not look at it for a week. Then come back to it, read it, make changes if need be, and then do it again, this time for two weeks. Don't send in your book hot off the press. You may find you wanted to change something. It's the same with your character. Maybe you want to take away something or add something to them. There should be things about your character that don't even matter in the book, that aren't even mentioned, that you come up with. You should know your character just as much as they know themselves. That's what makes your character them.
I think of it sort of this way: I am a doll in a giant's play house. I am his character. There is a lot to me. When creating a character, they are your doll in your play house. You decide.
As you might have noticed, I did not give you a list of things to do to create your character. Your character is not a list. Your character is a piece of art. Art has no guidelines, no steps through a process. I simply gave you things to think about when you create your own character, whatever that process for you is. Your character must be as real to you as everything else in your life is real. Your character is not just a character. Connection. If you can't connect to your character who can?

Previous Lesson


Subscribe Subscribe


6 Subscribers
Added on August 25, 2010
Last Updated on August 25, 2010
My Rating

Login to rate this



Seattle, WA

The name is Oleksander Silas. 18. Male. I reside in Victoria. I write but I also write through instruments. Explosions in the Sky. Sigur Ros. Jonsi. William Fitzsimmons. This Will Destroy You. God ..