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Character Creation Process?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Creed, Jul 13, 2016.

  1. caters

    caters Sage

    I make my own character sheets. I do this by searching "character development questions" and some of the results have like 100 questions for a single character.

    Usually my Character sheets are of this form:

    Hair color
    Eye color
    Skin color
    Weight(usually don't include but I decided to include in Kepler Bb character sheets)
    Muscularity index(-3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3)(Not based on actual muscle mass for negatives)
    Markings(Birthmarks, pigment on skin(so like painting skin), etc. Stretch marks not included)

    For Kepler Bb only: Home type
    Best friend
    Worst thing
    Best thing
    Who died
    Marital status
    Relationship status(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
    Introvert or extrovert
    Worst fear
    Lies okay
    No. of children

    Favorite color
    Favorite place
    Favorite food
    Preferred weather
    Favorite animal

    Meaning of life
    Habits(eating habits like morning snacking, other habits such as being emotional)
    Hobbies(Building, Writing, and Knitting just to name a few)

    This is the form my character sheets are in. The history is usually covered in these other categories but even when it isn't, I don't bother with history.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2016
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I'm curious; why is "relationship status" a scale of numbers?
  3. caters

    caters Sage

    This is to simplify things. As for the scale and what it stands for here it is:

    0: complete stranger
    1: Acquaintance
    2: Friend
    3: Good friend
    4: Best friend
    5: Romantic interest
    6: Girlfriend or Boyfriend
    7: Fiancé
    8: Spouse
    9: Family(So a mother-daughter relationship would be all the way over here at 9)
    Ireth likes this.
  4. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Sage

    for me i know some things about my characters but it comes together when i write first draft as i go it weird but that how it goes with me
  5. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

    Mostly my characters just develop as I'm writing. Almost every major character in my current WIP started out as a minor character in another of my stories.

    When I am consciously creating a character, to fill a specific role in the story or something, I usually start with a feeling or emotion. For example one of my characters was built on the feeling of elation (that's the best way I can think to describe it) so I asked what would make her feel this way and the answer I came up with was praise. So what would people praise her on? I decided I would make it her looks and have her be insanely beautiful and as a result of being beautiful terrified of losing that beauty. She also discovers being beautiful makes it very easy for her to get what she wants so she becomes disdainful of the people who blindly worship her because of it, even as she feeds off their praise.
    Creed likes this.
  6. That sounds cool. She sounds like a really interesting character, who I would definitely read about. I should try that technique sometime.
  7. Peat

    Peat Sage

    Uhh. This thread has just brought home to me that I really don't know how I do it, or at least do it consistently.

    I guess I have two kinds of characters. No, wait, three.

    The first type are the Main Characters I dream up one day and then start searching for a story to put them in. "What if a grumpy Paladin took up fighting crime?"

    The second type are the sort the story demands. "Well balls, guess I need a murder victim then. And a murderer. And some suspects. And some informants..."

    The third type are somewhere between the two and it usually goes "Oh hey, this old character of mine would fit well, she could be his apprentice..." or "Huh, that's a fun trope you see there, now lets give it a twist" or "That's cool, I'm going to steal it, now where can I put it".

    Or something like that.

    Also, only about 50pc of my stories grow up around characters. So a lot of the time, I'm looking for characters from the story to begin with.

    When I come up with a character I usually get their main ability and personality pretty quick. The next thing I tend to start thinking about is what I can do with them in the story (which often leads to more characters) and what their selling points are. Its not a very organised process. I usually don't write things down - I should. Even dumb things like "What's their favourite colour" start making you think very hard about who the character is.
    Creed likes this.
  8. Don't worry, there's no wrong way to do it. If anything, this forum should show you that. :)
  9. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I measure a character in their ability to forward my plot. Being interesting has no value any story can be interesting. You can add values all day long and not have a compelling character. I'd say an interesting story is personal, and the mc (going with what's published) is a blank slate to your tale. Demonize me as you will, but look at the market and what sells.
  10. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    When does plot override character
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  11. In my opinion, never, since the character drives the plot. Not sure how plot would override character.
  12. Peat

    Peat Sage

    An inefficient way is a wrong way to do it.

    Not that I think I'm being particularly inefficient - but reading my own methods back does make me wonder if I can make them stronger. Its why I'm here after all - to make myself a better writer :)

    Ah! One thing I did forget to mention is that I am a big believer in writing scenes with the character in to find out about the character. That to me is the surest way of finding out what the character is really like because

    a) You get to see how that personality really shows itself. They're bitter, yeah, but silently bitter? Very loudly bitter? Or does it just tinge their words with an ambiguous undertone? Also, sometimes I'll read it back and think "Well, that's not fun reading, time to change the character" - or I'll really struggle to write it, which usually comes to the same thing.

    b) As I write, I ask myself questions, and those are the questions that I find most compelling. "What sort of enemies would this man make?" "How does this woman react to a friend's death?" - that sort of thing

    I should be more organised about it after that stage and write down profiles though - even if its just noting down brief history, mains Tags and Traits, hoped for plot arcs, and relationships with other characters.
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >An inefficient way is a wrong way to do it.
    I'm glad to hear to hear Peat say this. I'm all for being supportive, but I think we go too far when we say, in effect, all ways are good ways. More precisely, when we say there is no wrong way (to plot, to make character, whatever), we can unintentionally send the converse message, that all ways are good ways. This will lead the novice writer into a bitter experience, for publishers and editors and agents certainly do not buy into that philosophy. For them, there are a zillion wrong ways.

    Back to the point in hand, Poet should absolutely write down the profiles. Not only for reference. Not only for the sake of continuity editing. Most importantly, because the very act of writing it down accomplishes two things. One, it's writing. Two, it will quickly show where you are not being as clear as you thought you were. Even if you never consult the profile again, even if you diverge wildly from it, you will still have those two benefits.

    Here's my own resolution on this score. I've got my character sketches. I have my stories, each in its own Scrivener project, and those character sketches are contained therein. What I need to do is create a separate portfolio of characters, from every story I've written or intend to write. I think that might prove useful in the long run (a run which keeps getting shorter every year).
    Creed, TheKillerBs and Russ like this.
  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I agree with sk that there are good and poor ways of doing things such as creating characters and other tasks in writing and that we run a risk of becoming useless by not being able to discuss the merits of approaches.

    Now I am going to give some advice that I have given before, hopefully not to the point of being boring. You have to know a fair bit about yourself as a writer and your story before you can decide what is the best way to create your characters.

    IF you are writing a fast paced plot driven work, the needs you have for characters and their creation is different than if you were writing a slower paced story more focussed on character development. Since I am just back from Thrillerfest forgive me for using an example outside this genre. Your character creation needs and methods are totally different if you are writing an international geopolitical thriller or if you are writing a domestic thriller. I would argue that the same breadth of needs and story styles exist inside the fantasy genre as well. If your story is very gritty and the characters are going to be very realistic than you have one type of need, or if the story is highly symbolic the characters might be very different.

    Unless you are simply writing a story about character that is overwhelming character driven you need to understand that your character should serve some higher aspect of the story. If you story is about pursuit of freedom in the face of tyranny than you need characters that will have the elements that make them desire freedom and have the attributes that allow them to confront the tyranny and potentially succeed.

    So it leads to what I believe the two questions a writer must ask themselves many times during the writing of a novel, or at least remind themselves of:

    1) What is this story really about?

    2) Who am I as a writer?

    On the second point, let me use myself as an example. Once I have developed a character in my mind I know their motivation, abilities, personality, their role in the story, etc really, really well, and I never lose them. But I have trouble keeping track of the more concrete details like their height, hair colour, how they dress, their name etc in my head. So if you were to open my scrivener files about my characters you would see lots of concrete details but almost nothing abstract. That is because I have built my system to fit my own strengths and weaknesses.
    Creed and TheKillerBs like this.
  15. That's true. What I meant is, there's not one way that works for everyone. If you have a way that works for you, don't question it because other people do it differently.

    I do the writing scenes thing too. I don't organize anything though. I don't keep character profiles written down, and I have a LOT of characters. I have a clear image in my mind of what each character looks like, how they talk, how they behave. I've never had to write down character's traits because I can't help but see them in my mind whenever I writing about them.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  16. I do interview my characters though. However, it's a bit less formal than an interview. It's more like a conversation. I have a list of useful interview questions, but I've found it's most helpful to use them as jumping-off points for conversation with your character. If a tangent interests you, follow it. See what you come up with.
  17. Peat

    Peat Sage

    DragonOfTheAerie, if I'm not going to question my processes because others do things differently, what's the point in talking to them about their processes?

    We should all be confident enough to question what we do when we hear about something else - and confident enough to know when to say "No, I'm doing what's right for me."

    Which I mostly am. I think I could get some more out of writing profiles but, really, is there something better I could be doing with that time for my story? Often, I think. We don't need perfect processes, we need really good processes that let us do a lot of work quickly. But then, the more often you do a process, the quicker it goes. So, I'm gonna play around with ideas when I get a spare moment.

    If nothing else, thinking of what should go on a profile will make my mental character creation better.
    Creed likes this.
  18. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    DragonOfTheAerie, if I'm not going to question my processes because others do things differently, what's the point in talking to them about their processes.

    If I can't win why should I lose. In the end it's all just mysticism.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2016
  19. Creed

    Creed Sage

    I'm totally getting a tattoo of that! :D
  20. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Swag life bro. Though honestly the why of something ends with truth.

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