Creating Strong Characters

Last week, we discussed the importance of having strong and complex characters for your writing projects. We now understand the characters act as the medium between you as the author and creator and your readers. Without strong characters, your well thought out and executed story will simply fall flat to your reader. It takes strong characters to make your story memorable. This week, we will explore the elements of making those strong characters.

Playing Games

A few years ago, I began playing the table top role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Now don’t judge, it is actually a lot more fun than you might imagine. It began as a request from my teenage son, who I believe got the idea from the television show The Big Bang Theory. He asked if I had ever played and when I told him no, he asked if we could give it a try. Being the father I am, I got the whole family involved.

If you have not played before, the first part of the game is taking a pre-designed character sheet, and creating your own character. From the race of your character (we are talking human, elf and dwarf here), their abilities, the way your character looks, and their history. Though we would eventually play the game, we were swept up in the creation process.

Creating a character for your stories should be no different. Becoming lost in the process, turning a blank page into what will be a living, breathing person should be thrilling, not simply a task to complete. Trust me, the difference comes through in your writing. Allow yourself to enjoy the process.

There are several aspects of character creation. Over the next few weeks, we will take a deeper look at each step, but today, you are going to have a look at the very basis of each.

History

If you take a look at where and who you are today, you will know that you simply did not become that without a lifetime of experiences and trials. If you were to become the character in a book today, how could where you have been simply be excluded? You have a lifetime of memories and stories of where you have been that make you who you are. Your characters are no different.

Very few books begin when a character is born, but every history begins with it, and sometimes even before that point. Who your character’s parents are, where they were born and raised and their experiences in life make them who they are where you book begins their story. Knowing those histories will help you develop your characters and also play a big part in making them and your story more real.

Why a Character is the Way They Are

Once you have a history, it is time to implement it into forming who your character is today. By taking their history, you will be able to explain why your character may have issues with commitment or trust, how they can walk through a door and know where every exit is located and be able to pick out who their threat in a room are. You can explain why your character has a prejudice for a particular people, or why they hate birthday parties. This is where you begin to form the aspect of who your characters actually are.

Voice

Do not be misled, this goes far deeper than simply the tone emitted when air passes through the vocal cords, though it is included. It sets the tone for your character overall. Is your character inherently sarcastic or overtly serious? Do they have a dry sense of humor or laugh at almost anything? Do they have expressive eyebrows or behave animatedly when they speak by waving their arms around? These are all factors in a character’s voice.

What’s in a Name

This is a topic that people either take very seriously, or take the Shakespeare approach, “What’s in a name?” Does your character’s name play a part in who they are, or is it just a name. If the meaning of a name plays a part in your story, such as Jeffrey being the bringer of peace, or Bella meaning beauty, then it is important to take care in choosing one.

Idiosyncrasies

The final stage of bringing your characters to life is the small things that make them human. Not only is this a physical description of height, hair and eye color, but include so much more. Scars, tattoos and even personal style also play a part. It is the little things that make a character real.

Now that we have a starting point and a basic understanding of where we are going with this series, I hope that you are as excited as I am to get started. Next week we will dig into what exactly a character’s history is all about. Just so you do not miss a posting, make sure that you subscribe to the RSS feed or even follow me on Facebook. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, as I am always here to help., though it is easiest to contact me on Facebook, as I am on there nearly twenty-four hours a day. So, until next week, keep your pens, pencils and keyboard going and write your hearts out.