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.
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.
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.
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.
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.