How to Create a Character From Scratch
Here are some methods to help you with your character creation!
Chances are, that if you are looking at this article, you’re already in the habit of observing people in an attempt to figure out how they tick. Making up whole worlds for other people is exciting and new! She could be an assassin on her way home to tuck her kid into bed. He could be buying flowers for his mistress. The world is full of infinite possibilities! While we know that making these observations helps us come up with a character concept, how do we flesh out those characters?
Characters pre-exist. They are found. They reveal themselves slowly — as might fellow-travellers seated opposite one in a very dimly lit railway carriage.
There are four common ways to create characters; it’s worthwhile experimenting with all of them. Experimenting can help you find out which method produces the most interesting characters for your story.
This method gets a bad rep but is an easy way of injecting something realistic into your characters right away. A lot of people shy away from this method for fear of becoming a self-insert. The thing is you are an excellent piece of source material. The way that you experience things helps you to imagine how others might feel in their circumstances. You have the only mind you will ever truly know and you have constant access to it. Don’t be afraid to allow your character to see certain things through your eyes and pick up on your habits. This is an easy way of making a character more realistic because they are based on a person you know very well, yourself.
This second method uses others for inspiration instead of yourself. This requires observing people and attempting to understand them. This method uses people that you know well (friends and family members) as source material. The research process could involve interviews, observations or just using what you already know of them.
This method is a bit more abstract. You could start with a hairstyle, a Myers Briggs personality trait, an object or a home. You begin to imagine what type of person would live in a cottage or ride their skateboard in a business suit. This method utilises the ‘What if?’ question to build up a character from nothing.
What if she dresses like her mother? What if she gets involved in drugs?
This will allow you to build up the character from scratch and often times a major plot point can reveal itself during this process.
This method is by far the most used. It mixes what you know about people with imagined details and your own traits. The combination method prevents a lot of the pitfalls that go hand in hand with the autobiographical or biographical methods. If it feels too close to home to base your characters on yourself or your loved ones, you can select parts of them and package them into an entirely new person.
There you have it, a brief intro into the most common ways that writer’s build their characters! I hope this helps and as always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!
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