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  1. That Silly Welsh Guy
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    That Silly Welsh Guy Senior Member

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    How Do You Create Your Characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by That Silly Welsh Guy, Apr 8, 2009.

    For me (in my novels mostly, not so much my short stories), I like to hunt down a picture off Photobucket/Google Images of an actor/actress/celebrity/general person who I would love to see portray said character if it the story were to be made into a film and paste it into a Word Document with a copy of a pre-prepared 'character development questionnaire' I have developed over time.

    Then comes the fun bit! I tend to answer those set questions in the way that I imagine that character answering them. It can throw up some suprising results. Curious to see what questionnaire I use, take a look below - happy to share :) :

    Name and age?

    Nickname? Who gave it?

    What is most noticeable about your character’s appearance/physical presence? How does he or she feel about it?

    Describe his or her voice, verbal ticks, pet phrases etc.

    Where does he or she now live? Describe the city, town or village, the house itself. Be very specific. Any feelings about this place?

    Has s/he lived elsewhere? What does s/he remember of these places?

    What does your character’s bedroom/sleeping place look like? (lots of detail please)

    What does he or she wear to sleep in? How does your character dress and undress?

    What does your character dream of at night? What does your character do last thing at night? . What does your character do first thing in the morning?
    What is your character’s motivation, ambition, or dream—what in screenwriting is called the character’s “dramatic need”?
    What is your character’s stumbling block? What obstacles are preventing him or her from achieving his or her dramatic need?
    Class, ethnic group, religious background?

    Married/ in relationship/single? Give names and specifics.

    How does your character feel about sex/intimacy? What sexual relationship(s) is he or she involved in? How did you find out the facts of life? Who told you? Was it someone in the schoolyard, your parents, a sibling or cousin? How did you feel when you found out?

    Exactly what does your character do to make a living (or in the case of a child, what do his/ her parents do; or in the case of independent wealth, how does he or she pass the time?)? How much does s/he earn? Feelings about work? What is the best part of the job, the worst?

    Who or what does/he fear?

    What about his or her life would he or she change if s/he could?

    Does the character have a hobby? Secret passion? (Can be something ordinary like soccer playing or yoga classes or mountain biking or sewing or fixing up old trucks - or an unusual interest like some Greek poet from the third century, or collecting spiders, or walking the tightrope…

    What would be his or her favourite smell ( why)? What's your favourite time of day? Your favourite time of year? Your favourite piece of music? Your favourite sound?
    What kind of shoes does he or she wear, (e.g. furry slippers or gumboot or trainers… new or old, style, what colour, fitting properly or too tight or too loose, nice and clean or old and smelly)? Favourite clothes? Describe exactly.

    Favourite meal? Attitude to food? What is your favourite vegetable? Why? What is your favourite fruit? Why? Describe your favourite place to eat.

    What is the worst thing that could happen to him or her right now?

    What vehicles does your character use/own? (for example: bike, skateboard, truck, yacht, stroller, canoe, spaceship, battered pickup, etc.. please be as exact as possible). What are his/her feelings towards it/them. What kind of journeys does he or she make?

    What is his or her most treasured possession?

    What illnesses has he or she suffered, if any?

    What’s his/her philosophy of life? For example’ You’ve got to look after Number 1’ or ‘Never say die’ or ‘Don’t ask for reasons.” What are his or her most strongly held beliefs?

    What does he or she feel guilty about?

    Biggest mistake ever made?

    Best thing he/she ever did?

    What, right now, does your character want most of all? His or her deepest desire – a glass of water, to get out of her marriage, a new pair of shoes, peace and quiet…?
    If your character applied for a job, what would they put on the application?

    How does your character’s physical appearance affect his self-esteem?

    What are some of your character’s mannerisms?

    Is your character urban bred or country bred?

    What is your character’s social or economic class?


    What kind of work skills does she have and how does this affect her role in the story?

    How is your character different from others and how does that affect the story?

    Any physical handicaps? Speech impediments?

    What makes your character an outsider from the norm in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or ability?

    In what ways is your character conflicted?

    What is your character’s deepest secret?

    Do you have siblings? Are your parents still alive? What's the best advice your parents ever gave you? What's the worst? How well did you know your grandparents? Aunts and uncles? Did you have a favourite?

    Was there ever a secret you had that someone exposed? How did you feel when that happened?

    Describe someone who is the complete opposite of you. Do you know anyone like that? Are your parents or siblings like you? Or opposite? Or in between?

    Do you have a TV? What's the best thing about TV? What's the worst? List five things you'd do if you didn't have one. How often do you listen to the radio?

    Who was your favourite teacher when you were 8? When you were 15?

    What thing do you like doing the most? Describe it in detail.

    List ten things you would want to have if you were the last person on earth? List ten things you would need. List ten things you wouldn't.

    In your view what is humanity's greatest invention? It's greatest achievement? List five reasons for each as to why they are the greatest and why they are the worst.

    Do you like you? Do you enjoy your own company?

    What is in your character’s pockets?

    What object would your character most hate to lose?

    Picture your character’s hands and describe them. What does he or she use them for? What rituals are associated with his or her hands?
    Picture your character’s hair. How does he or she wear it? How does he or she handle it or touch it?

    I apologise for any repeat questions. But I am also curious - what are your methods for building/developing a character?
     
  2. SilverRam
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    SilverRam Member

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    I use no system. They just come. Don't know what to tell you, but once they integrate themselves in my mind I must write a story around them.

    Sometimes sketching, I may come across someone that interests me. A song once inspired a story. 'Evil Genius' by Pat Benatar, if your curious. Sometimes I just have a feeling that a character is needed to fill a position, the plot isn't even set and usually they come from a statement of what I have in mind. For example, "____'s sort of stupid/meatheaded friend......" Ironically he's now one of my favorites.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't... as athena sprang from zeus' head [or thigh, in some tellings], they spring fullgrown [but fully-clothed], from my mind...
     
  4. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    I create my characters the same way I create my plots ... Usually I just have a general idea at first, but as I decide on various parts of the story or think of some interesting trait I'd like someone to have I end up fleshing out the character until they're unique. I never really consider generic things like favourite food unless it's particularly relevant to the story, but if they come up I'll just make up the little details as I write the story.
     
  5. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    I get a plot idea, then I think, who would be in this situation and why? Lo and behold, characters. I know, I know - it sounds like I'm a plot writer, but once I get a clear picture of the characters, I let them control the story.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When I have a vacancy in my story, I let a character materialize into it. If I don't already know basic attributes the character needs, I create them. These are usually simple, obvious attributes you would notice about a new person you meet on the street. For everything else, I wait for the story to provide an opportunity to show it, and choose it then.

    Thus I learn about the character the same way I learn about a person in real life -- by seeing how he or she behaves in response to surroundings and events.
     
  7. Emmy
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    Emmy Member

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    I find these replies really interesting. I've tried the route of letting the character develop, but I find that I'm either too impatient, or my imagination is lacking. I seem to do better when I create them piece by piece, and I fill out a similar set of questions to get a better grip on who they are. Sometimes, it's not easy - my main character in my current story is still somewhat foggy to me, but the other characters are very clear and are making themselves known in the story!

    Also, I make my characters live, once I'm done with the nuts and bolts. I create playlists for them and listen to their music. I find a photo of someone who looks like them, and I paste it to my bulletin board so I can look at them. I try to give them a voice so I can hear them. All of these things are very essential to me, as far as making them "real". :p
     
  8. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    I focus on personality and appearance first, which usually are the aspects that "pop into my head", and then build from there. As Cogito said, it's really about getting to know them like you would a friend--spend time with them. I imagine mine going around with me during the day when they're still new, and try to envision how they would react to the things I'm experiencing. Even if none of what I'm going through will end up in the story with them, it still allows me to explore their personalities. I also find doing a character bio to be helpful for fleshing things out, especially their pasts and childhoods. :)

    I forget who said it, but I believe one famous author said that he could take any accepted psychological personality test out there in the mindset of each of his characters and get results consistent with that character's personality. It's kind of fun to try it if you have the time to sit through all those questions. -_-
     
  9. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    They tend to come out of either needed plot places, foils to existing characters, or out of character types I want to write.
     
  10. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I guess since I write in first person it's easier for me to let my characters just materialize. When they come to me, so does the story. I hate, absolutely *loathe* filling out character worksheets. I don't know why I'm so adverse to them, but every time I try to fully develop a character like that my mind rebels. I think maybe my characters want to develop *in* the story so they don't want to give me all their secrets straight away ><

    It can be kind of frustrating since character development worksheets are one of our best tools...I just know that, for me, if I use them my characters always come out bland and boring. So I don't.

    ~Lynn
     
  11. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    I feel the same way! I've tried to use them, time and time again, and they are a great tool to utilize, but it just doesn't work for me. How would I know any of the answers, anyway? I can only find them out once I finish the novel and know the person inside and out.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I am viscerally repelled by character worksheets. It's a cookie cutter approach, and I utterly loathe it.

    Characters exist for the story, and only for the story, so I let the story mold them. I don;t believe in creating detail for the sake of detail.

    Leaving a character only defined as fully as needed atthat point in time leaves the maximum flexibility for development.
     
  13. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Plus, it's hard to surprise you when you've got it all written down. I'm more for the quick interview approach, letting the characters describe themselves in their own voice for you before you start writing them. Longer interviews for more important characters. They'll back themselves into corners, refuse to answer sensitive questions, and give out more information than they meant to. You would not believe the daddy issues my lead character has that I wasn't even aware of. If I'd tried to put her character all down on a character sheet, I'd have never found out about those issues. They might have worked their way in anyway- ideas can do that- but I don't trust myself that far as a writer yet.

    If you do use a character sheet, use it for bare, factual information, and be sure to ask the character about them. Saying the guy's six foot four and shy is one thing. Saying that he's really tall, and that's made him really self-conscious because he always sticks out in a crowd and everyone assumed he was really strong and really brave and probably a bit dumb, and because of these assumptions he never got a chance to be "one of the guys" and so has trouble making real, lasting friends... that's something completely different. Of course, he could be blaming his shyness on his height because he doesn't want to attribute it to- wait, I'm rambling. But you see how this works.
     
  14. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    I see lots of people like the interview approach. I hate it more than character worksheets. I don't know, something about it makes me feel insane. Like, there are no actual people here to interview. I'm being crazy. I'm pretending to be someone who doesn't exist. I like to just write and as I go, the natural thing for the character to do flows out of my fingertips.
     
  15. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    LOL. Shut up Dad, I'm not talking to myself, I'm talking to Alice. ... No, she's my imaginary antagonist.
     
  16. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    That made me LOL so hard :D
     
  17. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Yay :-D I'm so glad I'm not alone in hating the character worksheet approach.

    ~Lynn
     
  18. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have no system. Sometimes I see an actor/actress and create a character I'd like them to portray. Sometimes the story calls for a character and I create the character that way. Although the proper thing to say is that they just create themselves over a period of time.
     
  19. That Silly Welsh Guy
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    That Silly Welsh Guy Senior Member

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    It's been interesting to read about people's views on this - it's a topic that I've hotly debated with my friend on many an occassion - she doesn't like the fact that I analyse things and think too deeply about stuff. She's the same as some of you and thinks that you're better 'making it up as you go along' but I tend to side with my other friend who believe it's better to have a plethora of fully-formed characters at your disposal and construct a plot and relationships with other characters around what has already been pre-determined. I dunno, I just find it easier that - I blame my English A2 tutors they make me analyse and over-think too much.
     
  20. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I see my characters as already existing, and if they're new to me, I just don't know them all that well yet (so, it'd be impossible for me to answer a survey on their behalf... :)).

    I don't create stories for or around them, nor do I create characters to fit stories, the characters just... are, and they already have their stories to tell. I don't know how to explain it any other way. o_O
     
  21. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    i am the characters, how else can i live their lives
     
  22. Zayleus
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    Zayleus New Member

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    When I do eventually sit down to write, it means I am already very inspired. By that, it means that I've spent the past couple of days brewing over the characters and story line. I think of characters as separate beings, and I just let them talk to me.
    I know it sounds sort of weird, but I promise I'm not mad (well, maybe haha).
    When actually writing, my style is kind of abstract and I love adjectives so I tend to teeter towards explaining actions and the personality of the character so readers can get a general understanding of the character. As for the physical characteristics, I slip them in here and there. Kind of sneaky, I know, but I'm not for the whole "hello my name is mary sue, I'm blonde and I have blue eyes" thing.
    I'm into imagery. That's the word.
    (And metaphors. Don't put that one by me)
     
  23. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I think you put it perfectly (to poster above me).
     
  24. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    the only problem with adjectives/adverbs in their usages is when they get out of hand and become the story, with so many shades of the same colour, so many descriptions to describe a moon, that in the end, could have just been a moon.

    Characters are as said, they have to become a part of you. you have to live their life and sometimes that has to go beyond what you believe is right or wrong. sometmes it has to be an uncomfortable walk.

    the idea is, the story is about them, not about you.
     
  25. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I spend quite a lot of time thinking about who the character is, and what kind of things they like and dislike. Aside from main characters (who are all my own alter-egos) the other characters in my stories are just fictionalised versons of friends who all have a little space in my mind.
     

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