James M. Patrick

The Author

Tag: Characters

Character Creation
History – Part 2

A Character’s History

Over the past few weeks, we have gone into some detail over why building strong characters is important as well as how creating extensive and complex histories for your character can greatly enhance your story. Today, we are going to take a look at how to create the history, and how much fun it can be.

Pre-Birth

Now, many may think that a character’s history may begin at birth, but that is not always the case. In real life, our families, or lack thereof, play as big a part in our early development as the events that shape our lives. Consider if the character’s parents struggled with conception or if they already had children. While on the topic of siblings, take into account those early years. Think about the older brother who is fiercely protective of a younger sister, or the younger brother who idolized his older brother. How about the older sister who terrorizes a younger brother or the resentment of an older brother with a younger sibling always tagging along no matter where he goes? These are all things to consider before you even begin a character’s history.

Early Childhood

Take a moment to think about your early childhood. Perhaps you have memories of riding bikes with your friends, playing tag in the yard until the sun went down then catching fireflies and collecting them in a jar. Maybe your childhood was not as quite as picturesque and you spent your days worried about making it home before the sun went down when the scary men waited in the shadows to torment you. All of these memories and experiences play a part in shaping who you are today.

Your characters are no different. The events of their formative years are just one aspect of their development, but are vital to their creation process. Remember, you are creating what will be to you a living and breathing person. Just keep in mind, no childhood is without both the good and bad, so make sure that you include both. People are not singular, there is purism in everything.

Young Adulthood

Oh yes, the teenage years. This is the time in our lives when we get our first taste of freedom and are touching upon the world of adulthood. For most, this is when we experience our first adult feelings of love; experiencing first love, first kiss and first heartbreak. This is also the time of our lives when we are typically confronted with the vices of adulthood. Perhaps this was the time when you had your first cigarette, or confronted peer pressure to try marijuana. Not to mention this is also the time in our lives when many have their first sexual experience.

It may be a good idea to brainstorm or even have a checklist of such events and milestones when creating characters. Do not hesitate to take your own experiences into account, as well as the stories you have heard from others. By using real life experiences, you have the chance of making your characters even more believable. Remember, you are creating a person, the more authenticity you can scrounge up, the better your characters and stories will end up.

Early Adulthood

As you well know, this is the time of life where most come into their own. With school now behind you, the responsibilities of life confront you head on. Work, bills and in many cases, starting a family are all part of the bigger picture. When it comes to your characters, keep all of that in mind. If they have chosen not to start a family, is it because of professional pursuits or for issues with commitment from their childhood experiences. Remember, you are not only creating the history here, but you are also getting to know them. Never forget, in order to tell your character’s story true, you have to know everything there is about them.

Rest assured, though this alone may seem like a daunting task, there are ways to make it easier. For starters, the more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable it will become. Also, as I stated above, don’t hesitate to make a checklist or even a template to follow. There are no rules against using tools when you work. Whatever you can come up with to help, go for it.

Remember one thing, you are a writer, and writing should be fun. You are creating a person, you are fashioning a history that will bring them to life. Enjoy the process. When that obscure idea comes to mind about something they did as a child, grin while you write it down, laugh at the memory of something funny. Those emotions will come through to your readers when it comes time for them to read it.

I sincerely hope that you are not only getting some useful information and ideas from this blog series, but you are also excited to begin the process. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Though the easiest way is through Facebook, you can also comment here. I would love to hear back from you. So, until next week where we will discuss how to take the history you created into how it effects your character, keep your pens, pencils and keyboard going and write your hearts out.

 

Character Creation
History – Part 1

Greeting all, and welcome to the first part in a real understanding in what a character history really is. Before we get started on actually creating some histories, I wanted to give you some insight as to why it is an important aspect to your writing process. I hope after you read this article and know what it is all about, you will understand just how important and helpful a thorough character history will be when you begin to write.

What is History?

Does the concept of history lead you to think of a monotone middle aged teacher droning on about dates and names which you must memorize in order to pass a class? If it does, that is a shame. History is at heart, the story of OUR world. Additionally, if you find history without purpose and lacking in practical application, it is possible you have a common misconception of its true intent.

Take a moment and think about the last time you had a get together with some friends. Maybe you were at a party or a barbeque, sharing drinks and laughs. Good food and good friends always bring about good laughs. But what were you laughing about? I am willing to bet at least some of those laughs came from a story someone was telling about their past. Maybe it was the time Henry mistook a rake as an alligator on the golf course, or the time Lisa got so drunk her husband had to throw her over his shoulder and carry her to the car. These are the stories that make up our history and give people a glimpse of where we have been.

History, we all have one. They are what make us who we are today. Being raised by a single mother and witnessing men in her life that leave the moment things got tough causes Patty to grow up not trusting men. Seeing his family struggle to simply put food on the table, Junior follows in the footsteps of many of his classmates and begins selling drugs on the corner and eventually climbs the ranks and ends up ma major player in the drug trade. Each of these brief histories creates a rich base for any number of characters. The beauty is that as writers, we can make up anything.

Why is History Important Anyway?

When I was developing my first novel Ashes Will Fall, I spent endless hours on my character’s histories. I wanted to create characters with a rich history that my readers could not only relate to, but be able to feel for. Rudy Valentino, an army ranger with a drinking problem, never able to forget the woman he loves but no longer has. Heather Gil, a news reporter who buries herself in her work and indulges in cheesy romance novels to escape the memory of the career she has and the life she gave up with the only man she would ever love. Nick Ruben, a man who lost everything when his family fell victim to the ruthless drug lord Juan Chavez. For each of these characters and more, I have endless pages of histories for. In fact, it was from these backgrounds I was able to write my first short story series Rudy’s Rangers.

When creating a character’s history, you are creating a roadmap to where they are when the story begins. It is all about the journey. As the writer, you must understand their motivation. Understanding the motivations for them to act in a specific manner will greatly help you tell their story. Let’s take an example of a flawed character that plays the role of an anti-hero. Sure, he may steal, cheat and lie but when faced with a woman in the dead of the night with a battered face and torn clothing pleading for help, he stops at nothing to protect her. Why would he act in that manner? This is where a character’s history comes into play.

Getting to Know Your Characters

The best way to tell a story is to know who you are writing about. By intimately knowing every facet of their lives, you can better tell their story. But, how do you get there? The answer is simple, you create their history. You actually create the memories of their childhood; first love and heartbreak, their first car accident, the loss of a loved one, and even the pack of baseball cards they stole when they were twelve. You not only create who they are, but you have an intimate insight into every last dark secret of their lives.

Now, here’s the real secret. The entire purpose of knowing everything about your characters, you will know exactly how they will react in given situations. Even if sometimes they do something you are not expecting, and characters tend to do that, there is a reason for it. So, when you are establishing your plot and coming up with conflicts, you know how they will react. In other words, simply by knowing your characters, it will help you actually tell their story.

Now that we have taken the time to understand exactly what a history is and how helpful it can be, we can get started in creating some. Next week, that is exactly what we are going to do. So that you never miss a new post, 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. Seriously, I would love to hear from you about your thoughts on this and my past series, so don’t hesitate. Until next week, keep your pens, pencils and keyboard going and write your hearts out.

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