Finding Characters

J. L. Harland   •   July 28th, 2019

This week we decided to focus on how to create characters. What we do first is to create a spider web. The name in the central circle often takes some time. Names are important. Not only do they sometimes pinpoint the age of the character, but they can also give an indication of race or socio- economic status. How many builders do you know called Tristam, for example?

We start with physical characteristics. How tall? What colour hair? Eyes? Any distinguishing features? How do they walk? Sit? Nervous habits? Add their mannerisms of speech and movement and the way they dress. It helps build a picture.

Then we talk about the other aspects such as favourite foods. Ways to relax. Do they drink? What sort of job do they do? Who are their friends? Enemies?

After that comes the backstory. We start to talk about the point they appear in the story and what happened before that point. It’s important to have some ideas so that the character comes to life. We discuss all sorts of things like how they would behave in certain situations, anyone they might come into contact with and small details to help visualise and breathe life into this character. Sometimes it works too well – like Olga in our present story – or sometimes the characters decide that perhaps they don’t like the picture we’ve painted, and they develop other traits we hadn’t expected. It’s good to think of unusual features of personalities.

So, bearing all that in mind, here’s five characters for you to play with.

Five Characters

  • A killer who is an animal conservationist.
  • A beautician who is a kick boxing champion.
  • A rock climber who is afraid of heights.
  • A politician who sings in drag. (Have fun with that one!)
  • A policeman with a lust for blood.

Next time we’ll look at five things to do with settings.  Meanwhile – keep writing.