Updated: May 13
What's up ya'll! We're at the end of the third month of 2021, isn't that crazy? For me, this month has been a whirlwind of activity. Between stimmy's (thank you Biden!), taxes (which are due in April if you didn't know...), anniversaries (mineeeee!), surprises (like our cars needing some light work), and the possibility of new opportunities (which I can't discuss, but hopefully I can soon), it's been rough keeping up. But, I AM HERE and ready to talk to you about this month's topic, which is not a book review.
Okay, yeah, I know. January and February posts were book reviews and you were probably expecting this month to be too. But, I decided to change it up on you because The Write Voice isn't just about telling you about the amazingness that is Concrete Rose or Clap When You Land, it's also about providing writers with the opportunity to better their craft by exploring Tips and Tricks and Fun Facts. This month just happened to be the one that I chose for Tips and Tricks. So, without further adieu, here are 5 Ways to Create a Character.
1. Who Do You Know and Who Do They Know
So, first things first, who do you know and who do they know?
We all have some relative or friend with an odd background or strange stories. And, if we don't, then our relative or friend knows someone who's always ready to perform some shenanigans or do something impossible.
Lucky for you, you can use that to your advantage. One of the first rules of writing is to write what you know, and that includes your characters.
The best part about using someone in your life is that you don't have to do much with the character to make them interesting or entertaining (except, maybe, change their name) because they already have those qualities. Otherwise, why would you even bother writing about them in the first place?
So, yeah, when I'm thinking of characters that I want in a story, there's usually some element of someone that I know. Doing this makes my characters more intriguing and more relatable, and it'll do the same for you (and, worst-case scenario, you can always start with yourself.)
2. Historical Figures are Fascinating
Not everyone is a fan of historical fiction, and that's okay. However, you should know that basing your character on a historical figure is an interesting way to set them apart from run-of-the-mill characters--
especially if they're relatively unknown or part of a niche group. Don't believe me? Check out this list of "15 Interesting People That History Somehow Forgot" and tell me that it doesn't make you want to write your own version of their stories.
That said, you want to make sure that the historical figure that you're talking about or using as a basis for your character isn't protected by libel, slander, and defamation laws. If you're not sure whether the historical figure that you're thinking of representing does or doesn't, the best course of action is to--you guessed it--change the name and the circumstances surrounding that character.
Of course, if you choose a historical figure who doesn't have much history written about them, or whose existence has been nearly erased, you can create your own lore surrounding it (like J.S. Living did in her book The Covenant of Blood).
3. Strangers and Public Places
Have you ever been in a public place and felt like someone was watching you? Or, have you ever been the person who watches people in public places?
If so, then you know strangers and public places can be some of the best places to generate ideas, and characters. You can create entire personas for people just by watching them for a few minutes. The best way to do this is to take note of three things: what they're wearing, who they're with, and what they're doing.
I know that this seems creepy and a bit stalker-ish, but I guarantee that you'll be able to find some interesting things out there. For instance, the other day I went to an escape room mother and daughter were dressed in what seemed like Victorian-era clothing (which, made sense because one of the rooms was based on Edgar Allan Poe who died toward the beginning of the era). The daughter told me how she, her mother, and her brother all work together in the same escape room. If I wanted to, without meeting the brother, I could come up with several different stories based on that one interaction.
But, you know, you don't have to interact with every stranger you see in a public place to make this work (and, I really hope that you wouldn't). Just take your notes from afar and see what you can make. Plus, it's a great way to flex your creative skills.
4. Character Sheets
I can't say that I enjoy Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), but I will say that they got one thing right: character sheets. I don't use them, but I've seen other people's D&D character sheets and they're so freaking detailed! If you're a writer who enjoys D&D, then my suggestion for creating a character is to use what you know. Even if you don't enjoy D&D, or if you're like me and just don't understand it, I think that there's something to be learned from looking at someone else's and then doing your best to fill it out.
Another alternative (if you don't want to look like a total noob in front of D&D players) is this awesome detailed character sheet that I stumbled upon when I was creating a character for an Instagram contest. There's a ton of these sheets out there, you just have to find the one that works best for you.
5. When in Doubt, Start with Side Characters
This one probably sounds a bit weird. You may be thinking "Side characters? What side characters? I don't have any yet, that's why I'm reading this!"
But I'm not talking about your side characters. I'm talking about other people's side characters. For instance, have you ever read a book and found that you were more invested in the side character's story than the main character's? If so, then you're not alone. Plenty of people have felt this way and thought that they could write it better.
If you fall into this category, then you could do the same. Write about the side character from that book that you read that one time in high school. Then, think about that character's motives, their friends, their enemies, etc. Use that information to fuel your writing.
A word of caution though: When you do this, don't expect to sell that book if you copy every aspect of that character. The character still needs to be original. It still needs to be yours. Use those observations from numbers one and three to make that character yours.
And please, please, please, don't pull an E.L. James.