1. Username Required

    Username Required Member

    Feb 2, 2023
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    Generating characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Username Required, Feb 2, 2023.

    Hi all, I’m good at generating ideas, but not so much at generating characters. Some writers advise that we start the story with the character… but when I try that, I draw a blank. Where do your characters come from?

    If it helps at all, I write short stories, mostly flash fiction.

  2. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Comma (x5) Chameleon Contributor

    Feb 5, 2018
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    For short stories, i dont start with the character. I start with the setting or situation.... Then the characters naturally occur.
    There was 1 recent occasion where i was forced to think of the character first... But typically for me, the character is second.

    Dont let the character bog down your creativity. You may be someone who, when they write, makes the setting a character of its own!
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Dec 24, 2019
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    Way, way out there
    Think about real people you've known or seen. Sometimes the ones that make the best characters are people you never knew personally but just saw somewhere, maybe conversing at a cafe or walking around in a store, or somebody you saw frequently at school or a friend of a friend. Starting with real people keeps things grounded, and you can conjecture about their personality and character traits, but based on what you observed.
    Mogador likes this.
  4. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Senior Member

    Jun 9, 2022
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    Every writer has to do what works for them. For me, I start with an idea or theme first. What I want to say. Then create the character to show the idea.
  5. jej_jones

    jej_jones Member

    Jun 22, 2017
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    I'm not sure about flash fiction...I'm just assuming these are short stories or novellas?

    I have an idea in my mind and then think "what type of person would REALLY struggle in this situation?"

    For me, I have a novel I'm about to start about a serial killer in a small, quaint Vermont town. My protagonist is going to be an extremely traumatized and stressed doctoral student. I just figured they'd struggle dealing with something like that lol It was really that easy for me!
  6. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Apr 18, 2017
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    Currently Reading::
    "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
    The above is what I do too.

    Whether you start with plot or character, the plot shifts should seem important when driven by the MC. If you know your story's decision points then you choose an MC who's interesting when they make them. It might be because of the unlikeliness of the MC succeeding, or the unique perspective they bring, or the destructive course they'll take. It all depends on what you're trying to give the reader. The MC should be uniquely qualified to make those things happen.

    And of course in the opposite approach, when starting with character, you might discover crisis points along the way. You choose them so that only the MC can fulfill them. That doesn't mean successfully. The MC might be chosen because he's the only loser who is guaranteed to fail (e.g., Quixote). Your selection of that MC means that he/she pushes onward and there's a reason to keep reading.

    Example: If anyone could carry the Ring, then it wouldn't matter that Frodo had it. He's a unique character for that plot, and that makes the plot his.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  7. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Jun 5, 2016
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    I write genre Romance, which pretty much boils down to "two people meet and fall in love over the course of the story." When you're telling essentially the same basic story over and over again, creating compelling characters that readers want to root for is key. That said, I usually start with the situation, or setting, often in terms of a what if question. What if two chefs fell in love during a televised cooking competition? What if two assasins originally hired to kill each other went on the run and fell in love along the way? What if a wish-granting genie who owns a bakery fell in love with the human handyman hired to to repairs at his shop?

    Then I start thinking of what kind of characters could move the story along and create conflict while they move towards the happily ever after. What is there about each of them that creates a hurdle to be overcome? Is it a difference in their lifestyles? Personalities? Different priorities or stages in life?

    For my current WIP I wanted to tell a second-chance romance story of two long-distance FWB for the past 20 years, who finally get it together and wind up settling down in their hometown at 40 years old. Why would one MC stay home and the other head off for a life of adventure? What would happen that the one MC would come home and actually find settling down appealing at this point in her life. What kind of guy is the other MC, that he'd been patient and hopeful for all these years and not move on with someone else. The more questions I ask and answer, the more my characters take shape until it's like they're actual living, breathing people that I know. Then it's just the hard work of getting them from A to Z in an entertaining and believable way.
    Seven Crowns and JBean like this.
  8. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

    Jun 23, 2015
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    I don't start the story with a character. I start the story with a prototype of a character. Just a sort of blank slate that can do things and talk to certain people and be anything I need them to be in that moment. Obviously, that's not going to be a very consistent character, but my purpose is to find a starting point.

    I will usually get about a quarter of the way through a very rough draft. I got major players and a basic idea of a story. Now, I can start making some decisions. This is where I start deciding, "Okay do I want a first person or third person?" "Do I want it lore heavy or hang back a bit?"

    But the biggest thing I'm deciding is the three pillars of character development: What is the goals, motives, and conflicts to each character and how do I tie those character's back into a main theme? Do I even want a main theme? And that's another thing. What kind of story is this?

    If I'm writing a fun story, then I'm okay starting with characters. I'm okay with them not representing anything. But these days I'm trying to write to particular themes. So my characters all have to tie into that theme in some way. My antagonist will have to be more akin to my protagonist than just some bad guy.
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
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    Rhode Island
    Hey, I like that! I think I do something similar. Here's a human that sort of fits the vibe of the story... traits, conflicts, and flaws to follow when the story puts down some roots.

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