Here we have Part 2! Stay tuned for plot!
Hype|Character: Alright, I’m going to take everyone through a brief intro into the basics of character creation. Everyone has their own unique process for creating characters. Some may use character sheets that use points or numbers to determine skill levels and abilities are common. Others may have pages of details for each character. Others might just have a general idea.
For this chat, we’ll start with just an idea, and move into building a more well rounded character. Finding an initial idea for your character can come from many types of inspiration. All you have to do is open yourself up to it. You could base everything around a really good name with a particular meaning, or listen to some music that evokes a certain feeling.
Actors and characters in books can also give you ideas for your own characters. The way a person looks, acts or might behave in real life could start you on a concept. Maybe you love Gladiator? What about a character with the same values?
Hype|Character: So we’ll start with a short question. What was the first thing/idea you decided about your main character (MC)? If you don’t have an idea for a main, then maybe something you decided for a supporting character?
judyblackcloud: Green mohawk was my first decision for one of my MCs.
MaatRising: She’s a librarian forced to steal..
Hype|Character: For my Urban Fantasy, I started off knowing my MC had to wear glasses
Loki: dead-set on ousting the government
MattKinsi|Plot: He had to find a way to see everything was wrong
sushi|mod: the MC I actually know *is* someone I know, just transported about 700 years, so no big decisions there
MaatRising: He’s a hereditary druid priest.
quix: she’s unemployed
tiakall|Setting: She can’t touch anyone.
Darknessmatinee: The name Selena
NaNolantaPanda: she’s off work due to an injury.
Joyce: He is a retired detective who have been assigned a retirement job in a remote outpost.
zuzu1050: one of my main characters is male and pretty ambivalent towards life.
Lillie_Bell: an oracle who sees into the future and then gest transported there
Hype|Character: Alright, moving on. Now that you have a vague idea or starting point, you have to decide who this person is. This is your initial character concept. It’s a teaser. It should be easy to state in one or two sentences. For some of you, this may be an extension of your first sentence. For others (like me) who only have a name or one attribute, it may be harder. For example, “John Doe left his home in Montana to find his missing brother who mysteriously disappeared. John feels responsible for keeping the family together and will do anything to make that happen.”
A few lines can provide a wealth of information for building the rest of the character’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. It also leaves room for development and potential storylines. Why doesn’t everyone try to write a full sentence or two that sums up their main character now:
Loki: wants to take the power away from the dictatorship after realizing that it wasnt as wonderful as everyone had been led to believe
tiakall|Setting: Because she’s never left home until now, she’s lost in a big world and unsure how to proceed. She wants to go home once she’s uncursed, but the longer she stays away, the harder it becomes.
quix: April thought graduating with honors would be enough to land her a decent job and an apartment of her own; she was wrong.
sushi|mod: Assassin kills people in the Renaissance to continue the family business… but he’s terrible at it.
zuzu1050: my character is content with life as it is, is a follower, and does not handle change well.
MattKinsi|Plot: John Kendall, a good baptist, is promoted to Minister of Trade in Providence. After coming in contact with other countries, realizes all religions are good, tries to overthrow society, gets caught and reprogrammed.
judyblackcloud: Madigan is a recovering coke addict who just opened his own car shop and is trying to put his past behind him. Too bad nothing stays dead in a zombie apocalypse.
Darknessmatinee: Selena was the last one who could keep this place, the Armory, safe from barbaric raiders.
MaatRising: College librarian reads ancient text causing the apocolypse to begin is forced into role of Hero to save her small college town (especially the books).
roswenthe: A young boy goes in search of his mother in the depths of space when no one else will
Hype|Character: Moving right along then! Once we have a general idea, it’s time to build out a character. A basic character sheet can go a long way in helping you flesh out your character concept to create a living, breathing character you’ll want to write. Some other aspects of a character to consider for your sheet are family and friends (names of parents, siblings, spouses, and close friends), occupation, social status, financial background, pet peeves, date and place of birth, appearance, greatest achievement/failure, hopes and fears, etc. The list is practically endless. Get as detailed as you want. Real people have many facets, and so should your character.
sushi|mod: And that’s the key. Your character is a person, though a fictional one. Make them real.
Hype|Character: We’ll do one more quick activity. If anyone wants to stay after and try this, they’re welcome to! First, I need a volunteer!
Hype|Character: Okay! sushi|mod. What I want you to do is pretend to be your main character. Give us a brief description of yourself. Everyone else, I’d like you to ask this character questions for them to answer.
sushi|mod: Okay, description of me! I’m almost 5’8″, fairly thin, waist-length dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, can often be found in nerdy tshirts and jeans
Hype|Character: Do you like diet sodas?
sushi|mod: No. Ew.
sushi|mod: Nerdiness particularly of the math/computery variety, writing, music, attractive facial hair. nano=double++
MaatRising: Do you know who Winston Churchill was?
Loki: are you afraid of the dark?
MattKinsi|Plot: What is your favorite kind of plant?
sushi|mod: Venus flytraps. Also pretty plants
tiakall|Setting: Boxers or briefs?
sushi|mod: In guys, either. I can see the merits in both.
MaatRising: Do you have family?
sushi|mod: Yes. Most of them live about two hours north of here, and they’re quite close, even if they do fight a lot.
Joyce: Running shoes, flip flops, or barefoot?
sushi|mod: Running shoes if I have to do walking, sandals otherwise. Barefoot if I’m in my own place
Hype|Character: Do you have any pets?
sushi|mod: My roommate has a cat, but no other pets.
NaNolantaPanda: what was highschool like for you?
sushi|mod: NaNolantaPanda: I had a lot of circles of friends but it was kind of lonely until discovering NaNo. I achieved a lot academically though
MaatRising: How long have you had a roommate?
sushi|mod: About two months. I moved into this place recently
Hype|Character: I encourage everyone to stay after and try this at some point. Now, two more things before general questions, but no other activities. Next we decide how your character arrived at where he is now. This is your prelude. Every character has a history. It’s up to you to fill in those details for a rich character with a full life story to share.
This goes along with his introduction. Just like us, characters don’t pop into being (or maybe they do in your world! Who knows?) but a good backstory will help set the stage for where they are going. After that it’s time for introductions. Characters don’t just stand up and say, “Here I am!” The author introduces them to readers in some way. Character introductions tend come about in two ways: Through the author’s introduction to the reader by describing the scene that includes the character and his thoughts, or through meeting other characters.
Every character introduction sets a stage for telling the reader your main character points from your sheet, so a good set up goes a long way. Once the work is done, you get to start having fun and writing them! Though, you may already be having fun by now. Personally, I find the process of creating characters to be the best part, and I take time in doing it. Exploring a new character is like meeting a new friend, so take your time and enjoy it!
Hype|Character: So, any questions?
sushi|mod: <Loki>does anyone know a good character sheet thing for planning a novel?
MattKinsi|Plot: Yes! Take a look at the nanowrimo young writers program online workbooks
roswenthe: Roleplay resource sites like rpgdirectory.com have lots of character templates
Joyce: Google it. When I use them (not as often as I should), I tend to use several because they are so varied in their questions.
judyblackcloud: NanoFimo has a bunch!
sushi|mod: second up <Joyce>: I’ve read that it’s important to “interview” your characters or have him/her write a first-person journal entry about his feelings about him/herself. What do people think about this?
Loki: i usually think in terms of interactions with other people. that would be hard for me let alone my character 🙂
quix: I’ve never done anything like that. I prefer sticking my characters in odd situations and seeing how they react to them when something comes up.
sushi|mod: I did this for my second Nano, even though the three characters interacted very little after the first few chapters. It was more for fun than anything else
Hype|Character: If this helps you, I’m all for it! I try and think about things as I go through my day. Like, if I am eating a ham and cheese sandwich, I wonder if my MC would like that type of sandwich. Informal, but effective
sushi|mod: But if you find it fun, by all means go for it
tiakall|Setting: I don’t think it’s that important. Plus you’ll leave it open to discover things about your characters when you write.
judyblackcloud: Yeah the journal entry or whatnot as my character doesn’t help me but I’m giving though to trying it with this one.
NaNolantaPanda: First person journal works well for me … oddly for scriptfrenzy. Feelings about self is hard … just kept it a general journal about what chars would journal about.
sushi|mod: Okay, one more before we move on to plot <MaatRising> How important is physical description in character development?
tiakall|Setting: Only if it’s relevant to the plot!
Loki: i usually use my characters look to tell something about his character. even if its only to me 🙂
MattKinsi|Plot: I do agree – if it’s relevant I’ll roll with it
MattKinsi|Plot: but if not I wont go the extra step to describe it
tiakall|Setting: actually, I’ve read great stories where you never know what the character actually looks like.
soteriologies: i think it also depends on the genre and what your readers may be expecting
Joyce: Agree with tia. Too much description by the author interfers with the readers’ imagination.
NaNolantaPanda: I personally need to see them but I tend to not write about it … allows reader to place in the shoes of the char …
judyblackcloud: I think physical is important, enough to give the reader an impression so they have a visual reference in their mind.
MattKinsi|Plot: I also think that depends in part on your genre.
quix: I’m 63k into one of my stories and I’m still not clear about what one of my characters looks like 😀