Photo by Debra Lopez
By The Writing Freak
I’m someone who gets frustrated using character profiles because they never look anything like the character I actually end up writing. I like to discover a character through story. For me, this leads to a much deeper understanding of a character, which makes them easier to write and makes them come across as more real and developed in the story.
Tell Yourself Their Backstory
To really understand your character, you have to understand where they came from. This is important even for side characters. What kind of family did your character grow up in? What struggles did they face (or did they face few)? Tell yourself their story and watch how the events click together, their development comes naturally, and your understanding of them grows. Make sure to write this down. You’ll come up with a lot of great ideas, and I promise if you don’t write them down you will forget them.
Think About Them in Relation to the Other Characters in Your Story
Characters really show their stuff when they’re interacting with other characters. I actually like to have certain conflicts and chemistries in mind when creating characters. For example, when coming up with the idea for Bernie, a loud, aggressive, too-honest feminist, from my series Talented, the next character I created was Jared, the ridiculously attractive, ridiculously privileged boy who makes a game out of girls’ sexualities. I created Jared because of the conflict he provided for Bernie, and as I delved further into their relationship, I discovered nuance and depth I hadn’t previously expected. Their relationship became even more complex, and together they bring to the surface facets of their characters they might not have shown individually.
Push Their Buttons
Play with them. This doesn’t have to actually come into the story. This is for you.Run your characters through scenes that stress them out, that make them happy, that challenge them. You can just do this in your head, you can write these out as bullet points, or you can even write whole scenes. Who knows, you might like what you discover and want to add it to your story after all.The point is to test your character in every way possible so you personally know every extreme they have.
Analyze Other Characters (and Real People)
This is where I get my best inspiration. I’m a TV junkie, and half the inspiration for characters I get, I get from characters on TV. Now, it’s never me saying “I’m going to copy this character exactly.” It’s me saying, “I find the chemistry these two characters have really interesting, and I wonder what would happen if these things about them were different” or “I really hate this dude, and if I were writing him this is how he would be.” And on and on. Find what works. What doesn’t. What makes you question, and what keeps you invested. Discover and analyze and interpret into something of your own.—If you found this advice helpful and would like to support me in bringing you guys more regular posts, please check out my Patreon page!
April Yvette Thompson