Every story has at least one character. The character can be almost anything. It could be a person, a spider, a tree, a rock, a dragon, a storm, etc. What ever the character is, it has physical and emotional features. It has a point of view, perhaps a history, some kind of future. Most likely, it has a personality, a temperament even feelings. A story without a character is not a story.
Characters are depicted in different ways by various writers. Some go into lavish detail about how characters look physically while others use virtually no physical description at all. These latter writers rely on the reader to create a mental image of their own based on the character’s actions and dialogue. Even though the physical description never makes it onto the page, I would bet that the writer knows what the character looks like and how they dress. Interesting characters have detailed backgrounds. It’s the character background that I am interested in exploring.
Most of my stories start with a character. My first writings were, in fact, character sketches for role-playing game participants. I enjoy character creation and have approached it from many different angles. Sometimes I start with a physical description, sometimes a profession, sometimes a core personality profile, and sometimes a history. Each one works and very well-rounded layered characters can be created, regardless of where you start. The key thing is, always build more into the character than you will actually use in the story. Sometimes, your characters will go someplace or have to deal with an issue that you may not have thought about when you started writing. If you have a detailed character background, you can easily determine how your character should respond.
Recently, have I tried to write without having a fully fleshed out character to start with. I am finding myself having to re-read previous sections to remind myself what the character said or did. This is time-consuming, so I have started taking notes as I write. I hope the characters turn out okay. we shall see.
My intention is to offer a series of posts devoted to character creation. During the series, I will tear apart the main character from several flash fiction pieces and my short story, “Good Night’s Sleep”. I will show you how Yursi was developed. I actually created her twice, using two different methods. Each gave slightly different results, as it should be.
I look at character creation like creating a painting. The artist starts with a blank canvas and begins by drawing a pencil sketch, the a base layer of paint is applied. Then, the picture begins to take shape as the artist adds layer upon layer of paint to the canvas. Each layer uses the layer beneath and adds detail to painting until together, all of the layers make up the final image.
I have seen characterization addressed many times in blog format. Usually, it is a brief discussion talking about character tags and traits we use to describe characters within the story. I have posts covering those areas as well. I hope this series will be a deeper dive into the background material where those tags and traits originate.
If you are in the initial stages of a story or have a story with a character that seems flat, I will give you suggestions that may help you bring your characters to life. Along the way, if your character has a major problem area that you would like to discuss, I would be happy to do so. :-).