1. 11thHour
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    11thHour New Member

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    How do YOU come up with your characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by 11thHour, Jul 25, 2016.

    Do you start from scratch, base them on someone you know, sample them from your favorite characters, write them how you would want to be ? I feel character creation is one of the most entertaining portions of story writing. I look forward to hearing everyone's responses.
     
  2. Zorg
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    Zorg Member

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    Pretty much your entire first sentence.
     
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  3. kim&jessie
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    kim&jessie Member

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    plucking bits and pieces from everyday people is ultimately what i think makes for dynamic and realistic characters. random character quirks strung together and sewn onto mary-sues make for irritating and two-dimensional people.
     
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  4. 11thHour
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    11thHour New Member

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    I agree. I always try to add little things from real people I know. It makes the characters feel more alive.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Characters - or at least the basics of characters - just seem to pop into my head. If I have any natural talent as a writer, it's in the creation of characters. (Note that I said the creation of characters. I'm still working on the vivid rendering of said characters.)

    When I have the basics, if I still feel I don't know them well enough, I'll write a scene or two or three about the character. It doesn't matter if these scenes make it into the final story; they're only there to enable me to see and feel the character more clearly.

    Then I'm off to write the story!
     
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  6. Shn1010
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    Shn1010 Member

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    What I like to do is imagine types of people I'd like to meet in real life. My characters are like the friends/ enemies I never had. Also, different scenarios pop into my head whenever I listen to a song and I imagine how the character would look like in that scene.
     
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  7. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Generally, I don't create my characters, I get to know them as I write. As a starting point, some of them I know a little about them at the beginning. A Roman officer introduced himself as the quintessential good officer (think Lt Col, pre-c0mmand), who had good rapport with his centurion (think gunnery sergeant), and those templates directed their actions. But other details emerged as they told their story... the officer lost his family in Vesuvius as a boy; killing his first man was traumatic, and a big mistake. The centurion is socially awkward among high society, lost his mother as a child, no sisters, no relations with women in his life other than whores and barflies. Speaks very crudely, but secretly well-educated, classical Greek and philosophy, keeps his light under a bushel. And the two had soldiered together since the officer came in as a green tribune (think "Baby Brown Bar" 1st Lt) and the centurion then just a common miles soldier (private), back then on the Danube near Vindebona (Vienna) with Legio II Gemina, now in Syria with Legio XII Fulminata. They clearly shaped each other's lives over the 20 years preceding the story.

    My readers like the way my characters emerge, very naturally, without being pre-planned.
     
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  8. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I pretty much have to come up with my characters from scratch. Sometimes I start with an action or a line of dialogue for the character (ie. my bank robbery scenario), sometimes I start with a counter-intuitive combination of MyersBriggs type and Dungeons&Dragons alignment (i.e. a Lawful Evil ESFP man and a Chaotic Evil INTJ woman deciding to work together), sometimes I start with a common trope that I don't like (ie. the idea that two women have to be the observers of what the men are doing, rather than doing anything themselves) and try to come up with a way to do something different ...

    One of my favorite games to play with my characters is to try to find other people - either real or fictional - who match them the most closely, but none of the comparisons hold up for very long ;)
     
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  9. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    I don't really know. As pretentious as it sounds, they sort of create themselves. I guess it starts with their role and it goes from there. I don't really do character profiles or anything like that. There is a basic idea of who they are and I try to let them grow as I write. I like working like that because they can surprise me, and I know how stupid that sounds haha. I like to put them in situations and see where they go with it.
     
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  10. caters
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    caters Member

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    I make them from scratch. I start with physical mostly. The socio-emotional and other characteristics grow as the story goes on.
     
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  11. RichieMarcus
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    RichieMarcus Member

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    I do a little bit of everything when it comes to creating characters, though they almost always end up starting from scratch. My character development goes hand-in-hand with the story plot: as I get the character's basic form down, I develop setting and plot.

    I have to admit most, if not all my main characters, are a 'happy accident', something that spawns from a single idea that sticks out to me. I build upon that idea, adding personality traits and physical characteristics. At the same time, I develop plot points and events to later plug into the story, some of which are thought up the same time I'm working on the character. Example: One of my characters enjoys Hall and Oates. So I add a scene where he's singing along to his favorite song while driving.

    There does come the time where the ideas stop fueling themselves and I have to actively think of other things to add. This usually happens when I sit down and write out a first passage.
     
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  12. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Usually I have already created the world. Then I think to myself, "Who would make the least sense in a world like this?" Boom. Protagonist.
     
  13. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    it really varies for me, some characters, like all bar 1 of the characters from my main WIP just appear in my head one day, introduce themselves and make themselves comfotable until they find a spot in my WIP that they'll then say "thats my stop there, put me in" others, like Kilnir, who is the 1 from my main WIP, was a character based off another, but using a "What If...?" statement. it seems weird that he is the only one to have ended up like that, but it was after watching The Hobbit that i created him. Isake had been sitting comfortably in my mind for a while and thought Kilnir an apt character to work with, and the rest, as you might say, is history
     
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  14. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    Out of curiosity, how important is a characters appearence to people. Personally, unless its relevant to the story, I don't care that much. I mean I give a brief description when I introduce them and I might throw in a few details after that but I like to leave it to the imagination as much as possible.
     
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  15. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know the race and gender of my characters, and I made it plot-relevant that my MC is of average height and weight.

    That's it. That's all I got.
     
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  16. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Something sparks inside. Just an idea. Something that could work with a story. I try not to flesh everything out as I'm not interested in having a character apart from a story. Because for the most part I don't want the character to fit with just any story, I want the story to help create the character and vice versa. For them to be integral.
    Conflict also helps to decide on the character's/story's path but I usually pick two layers - the internal conflict and external.

    What things have helped to create my characters -
    The memory of my best friend when I was 11.
    A girl I met briefly in sixth grade.
    Bizarre behavior I've witnessed over the years
    A photograph from the back of an obscure VHS
    a figure in a dream
    a conversation overheard
    My family, friends, church members, acquaintances, people glimpsed in malls, libraries, etc.
    Quirks and weird habits glimpsed
    Old photos
    even pets and animals
    etc.
     
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  17. NobodySpecial
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    NobodySpecial Active Member

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    Yes
     
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  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I keep appearance description to a minimum. Usually just approximate age, height, and body type (fat, skinny, muscular, whatever). Any details will depend on the relevance to the story. I'm not one of those who waxes lyrical about long blond hair, noble aquiline nose, straight even teeth, high intelligent forehead, high sharp cheekbones, lanky but graceful carriage, etc. You can go on for paragraphs about that stuff and none of it really matters. Unless it does, of course. ;)
     
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  19. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I write romance so I'll generally be pretty detailed about my character's physical attributes, especially the MC's. But in many other genres I can see why it's not terribly necessary unless like @minstrel says, it's relevant to the story.

    When creating characters I usually start with the situation (a televised cooking competition where two chefs fall in love, a personal trainer is hired to work with a recently rehabbed, completely recalcitrant rock star and falls in love with him, two assassins on different sides of the same mission go into hiding and fall in love), then come up with the personalities for the MCs that would best create drama/interest. I'll then come up with their appearance and a very detailed backstory. Not all of the backstory makes it into the book, but I feel that having a good idea of how this person got to be who they are today keeps my characterization consistent. I'll then try to figure out what secondary characters are needed - the competition needs 10 additional guests and four judges, the rock star needs a band and a manger, and the assassins need clients to hire them and victims to rough up/kill.

    Even though I start with the plot, my writing is extremely character-driven so I do a lot of upfront work on the characters before I start writing. I like to begin my stories feeling like I know my characters inside and out. It's amazing how many times they surprise me along the way though.
     
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  20. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    I keep descriptions to skin tone/ethnicity, hair color/length, eye color, and general body shape type (i.e. skinny, muscular, fat, tall, short), and general clothing style. This way the readers can have a picture in their heads while reading. But no one cares about the aquiline nose, height of forehead, cheekbones, etc. I don't even think about that stuff either.
     
  21. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I start with some basics a type of character I want to write - that could be occupation, religion, ethnicity, town of origin, behavioral types, etc.

    Then, if I'm adhering rigidly to the way I like to do things from scratch, I program them with two character traits that conflict with eachother and work out how this contradiction can exist in one individual. The example I use most is that I have a person who is a practicing Jain but also a music and culture blogger - her belief system is harshly anti-materialistic, but she's obsessed with the material trappings of American pop culture. Another one is a fallen Valkyrie from Norse Mythology who turns up practicing Orthodox Judaism in modern America - just figuring out how she became Jewish and where she'd been through history gave me a lot about her.

    Granted a lot of times it's more organic than that and I'll get an image of a person and then just start working out what makes them tick and where the contradictions are. Like one character I started with an image and a name - because the character was meant as a bit of a representation of upper-class white America - so I started with some real basics like her name (Sophia Lee - most common female baby name with the world's most common last name) and the fact that I wanted her to be white, well-off, blonde, and the only character who's actually FROM Washington, DC where the story takes place. That gradually evolved into a much more fleshed out vision of this person who was raised with a lot of privilege but has a compulsion to operate outside her wealthy bubble - her parents ended up both being high up in the fine-arts non-profit world, which means they sort of look down on the political world that exists right next to them in Washington, which meant they didn't take it well when little Sophie decided to study political journalism instead of music - not to mention rejecting the Ivy League frat boys they want her to date. Of course, that also led to a lot of pressure from all the middle-class strivers and climbers who usually end up in journalism, who ostracize her for being a girly-girl rich kid that doesn't understand how the real world works. So that leads to a bunch of inner conflict about her wondering whether she really is as sheltered and out-of-touch as everyone says - and then she did something really weird on me and ended up leaving journalism and joining the military in an attempt purge all the guilt she feels about her own affluence. So, yeah, just following her down her own mental rat-hole worked out pretty well - especially since her starting point was "this character needs to be as vanilla as I can humanly make her."
     
  22. Sapphire at Dawn
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    Sapphire at Dawn Member

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    From a variety of places. Four/five characters (including my MC) in my current WIP are based on people I found on the 1841 census for my village. One of those characters' personality is taken from a real person I found in a book. Yet another character is based on Marius from Les Mis. Others I have simply made up to fill a gap. I've fleshed these people out from my own imagination.

    Writing historical fiction, or fiction based off mythology, quite a lot of my characters are real people, sometimes with clear personalities. The task there is fleshing them out into a three-dimensional, relate-able person, having an explanation behind their actions.
     
  23. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Step 1: What is needed for the plot?
    Step 2: What is the world's history, and how does that affect the characters from step 1.
    Step 3: Is any charater from step 1 new redundant, if so, remove.
    Step 4: Add hobbies based off of interests that are plausible.
    Step 5: Characters?

    Hopefully that gives me something workable that I can further flesh out.
     
  24. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A mix of everything, I guess. I've had characters influenced by random people, classmates, movies, books and pure imagination. Though I usually don't do much character creation beforehand; instead I improve on them as I write the story and get to know them.
     
  25. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have hundreds and hundreds of potential characters all ready to jump out of my head. I have to give them a reason to do just that. Really only if I need them for some plot. Even if they start as a plot device I make sure to flesh everything about them until they seem essential to the story. Slowly but surely my roster of characters grows using this method.
     

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