*Disclaimer: I am by no means a professional writer, so this information is gathered from my experiences writing, some lessons/books I’ve used when writing my stories, and some of it I just thought up while writing this*
Have you ever found that you’re stuck trying to create a character? Or maybe you have a name but no personality, or your characters seems bland in writing and isn’t developed. These are all possible problems when using characters. Most of the time the problem is that of description, personality, and background.
When creating a character for your story, you have to play the role of a psychiatrist- get inside the character’s head. You have to know your character inside and out; know them like you know yourself, or your best friend, or even another character in your favorite story. Some important aspects of developing characters are the ones that are most missed- physical description, personality, and backstory. If a character is missing one of these parts, they can seem undeveloped or not real. You want your characters to feel like real people. I’ll keep referring to them as characters here, but here’s a nice Ernest Hemingway quote:
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”
Again, I’ll refer to them as characters here, but I wanted to include that quote because it’s very relevant as to what I’m discussing; your characters should be real people, they should have every aspect of living beings- faults, likes, dislikes, fears, appearances, personalities, backstories, etc. The more you know your character, the more you know the story, and the easier the story is to write.
But, how do you fully develop a character? How do you make them seem real? Here are some questions to consider when creating a character that might help you:
- What’s their full name? Is there any meaning behind the name?
- Do they have a nickname? What’s the meaning of the nickname and how did they get it?
- What’s their physical appearance? (hair color, eye color, hair style, height, etc.)
- What type of clothing do they wear?
- Who do they hang out with (aka what’s their “group”)
- Who’s their best friend?
- Who’s their enemy?
- What are their likes?
- What are their dislikes?
- What’s their deepest internal fear? (the fear they won’t tell anyone else about)
- What’s their external fear? (the fear they give in response to “what are you afraid of”)
- What’s their favorite and least favorite foods?
- What’s their favorite color?
- What color clothing to they wear most often?
- Do they wear any jewelry?
- What’s their favorite school subject? (if school exists in your story)
- What’s their “smart subject” (the topic they know a lot about- what are they a nerd for?)
- What topic do they have zero knowledge in? (the opposite of a “smart subject”)
- How would they respond to going to a theme park?
- How would they react if they had a surprise birthday party?
- What are their hobbies/favorite things to do?
- What are their faults?
- How would they be described by their friend?
- What’s their personality?
- What’s their backstory like? (what happened in their past that made them who they are today?)
Those are quite a few questions, and of course there’s a lot more. Another method of developing character -not a figure in a story, but a feature that describes them; almost like personality- is the elevator test. What you do is take your character and then imagine what would happen if they got stuck in an elevator. Would they be the one that plans an escape? The one that waits patiently to be rescued? Or the one that begins hysterically freaking out? There are many possibilities, and it all depends on the character you put in the elevator. This reveals a character’s character, so to speak.
A great way to visualize a character’s appearance is to create character sketches. These show your character in many different poses and their facial expressions. You can also sketch out the type of clothing they wear, and include color palettes showing the colors thy frequently wear or the colors of their eyes, hair, and skin. Don’t worry if you’re not a good artist- this is just another way of helping to develop a character.
If any of you are gamers, you can also imagine that your character is a player or avatar or figure-in-a-game, and the story you’re writing is the video game- you send the character through a series of levels and events that lead to the climax. How would the character go through this so-called “game”? Maybe the story your writing is about a video game or takes place inside one- then this form of character development would really be useful.
I hope this helped those of you who may be struggling with under-developed characters, or those who needed help creating characters, or maybe even you guys who just wanted some new ways to think up your characters. Happy writing!