I thought I’d write a little post on how I build my characters, so here goes.
First of all, I usually tumble across an idea inside my mind, and when I do it’s as if I haven’t had the idea myself, but as if someone left it there, for me to find. I’ll look at it as if it’s someone elses thought and realize “Hey! This is a great idea!”
Then ill start to flesh it out, and I always start with the characters. There will be a basic concept of some kind or other, but there’s always a lot of work to be done. And I’m the kind of writer who has to do a lot of work before I’m ready to write. I have whole novels outlined where there are basically no plot yet, just characters’ beginnings and ends.
Almost everything I write about is based on things from the real world. Every room, building, person, object. That’s an easy way I use to cheat, it lets me have an outline to add to, one that is easy to imagine. I’m very visual in my head.
So, instead of making up a person from scratch, I’ll find a real person to base them on.
Now don’t misunderstand. None of my characters exist in real life. It’s not like I write an exact copy of a friend (or stranger), into a story. But I’ll borrow one of their traits, or a strangers features, and add to my design.
Sitting on bus or train is a great place to do this. I love people watching, and I always try to notice how things people DO might affect how they ACT.
Does a person always seem to be in a hurry for example? Or maybe they are always very calm and relaxed, no matter how hectic their day is. Do they drum their fingers on something. Do they move their head a lot when they talk, or do they gesture. Do their eyes move a lot or do they keep eye contact? I try to notice all these small characteristics that make people different.
But I don’t write a lot about my characters doing all of these things constantly (or maybe I do, but I try not to), but I consider how it affects behavior. Is the guy who’s in a hurry agressive in the way he talks? Does he interupt other people who are talking? Is the girl who bites her nails nervous or shy? Is the person who doesn’t break eye contact intimidating or not?
It’s very easy to remember how you feel about a certain person, a colleague, family member, or friend. But do you know why you think of them like that? What it is they do or say that make you perceive them in your way?
All of these things might not necessarily besomething that is active in my writing, but I will keep it in my head. I will build up this whole idea of what a character does, how he behaves, and how that is perceived, so that I can take it into account when writing about them, and writing their lines. That way I’ll be more aware of how this and that character would act, or what they would say in certain situations.
So that’s it. How do you create your characters?