Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Character Creation 101: The Fleshy Bits aka Quit Peeking!

     It was his upbringing…you can’t blame a boy after he was raised like that. But one does not simply walk into Mordor. You’d have to pay a fair penny for that to happen. Maybe that’s why he did it. For the money. Plenty o’ them celebrity-peoples do it for the money. What about Tinkers, tailors, soldiers and spies? Though, wasn’t it Colonel Mustard in the dining room with the candlestick? Don’t get me started on candles!

     Though the above sounds like the ramblings of a madman…ok, I’m not even going to try and defend it. It is what it is. HOWEVER, the point I’m trying to get across is the thought process going into creating a character. So you’ve got the name and you’ve got your tags from my last two blog posts, but now it’s time to breathe life into your characters.

     Let’s start from the top.

     History – the upbringing, the old, the new, the current. Everything that happens to a person shapes them in one way or another. This isn’t so much as their ‘destined path’ in life, but more their mood, attitude, likes and dislikes. Take the stereotypical ‘raised by wolves’ character. They grow up to be a little wild, rough around the edges, sometimes a bit of a loner. This fits with the upbringing. Now, if said characters was raised by wolves BUT was a debonair fop, blue-eyed, baby-faced, and able to use every utensil at the kitchen table whilst being able to concentrate long enough to eat with his mouth closed…then either the wolves were well versed in mealtime etiquette or there is another side to his history that we do not know. Sometimes it’s not necessary to explore the entirety of a character’s back story, but we were all young once.

     Motivations – what’s made the character act as they do? Not so much as in history, but why are they currently involved. Queen and country? Money? Fame? To get the girl/guy/Colonel Mustard? Revenge? A motivation can be anything, but it’s something that helps the reader connect to that character, and to relate to them. It turns a character into a being, a person. Take Luke Skywalker for example. He wanted revenge, peace, and a new haircut amongst other things.

     Methods – Everyone has their own methods. How they think, how they act. Most importantly, how do they REACT? Problem engagement and solution is critical to a story. I mean, that’s what a story is. A problem, and an account of how it is overcome (or not in some cases). Your character needs a clear-cut method of copy with things. This could be from having a berserker-like rage that sees them through the bloodiest of battles, to a severe arachnophobia handled only by the trance state of believing themselves to be a rolled-up newspaper. Put simply, your character is a priest. How do they respond to being attacked? Turn the other cheek (not literally…well…), preach the wrongs of their attackers’ actions, beseech mercy? Who knows, your priest could be a Warrior-Monk who beats 50-shades-of-whoop-ass into any who dares raise a hand to them.

     Functions – your character….do they have a function? Are they important to the story? Or have you just made them up for the heck of it? If they serve no function…chop them. It’s fine to have a background characters, or someone who acts as a plot device, but if your guy/gal is only there as eye-candy why not tie that role into someone else? That way you’ll have One more fleshed-out character rather than two sacks of bone and gristle.

     Purposes – what does your character want in life? Tied closely to Motivations, a Purpose is the long or current goals for that character. Save the world in time for tea? Go to the shops before they’re old? Giving a character a goal helps share a sense of achievement with the reader. I mean, we’re all going somewhere, right?...hello?

     Opinions – everyone has a right to their own opinion, and no opinion is ever wrong. This to an author is like handing a kid a box of matches and telling them to go play in the hay barn. Your character can have an opinion on anything, and their actions will be shaped thus. Look at Spiderman. ‘With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.’ Now, look at the Oracle in the Matrix Reloaded. ‘What do all men with power want? More power.’ CONFLICT = ACTION. ACTION = DRAMA. DRAMA = SUSPENSE. SUSPENSE = CLIFF HANGERS. CLIFF HANGERS = MORE BOOKS. MORE BOOKS = ….repetitive stress injury.

     After looking into the above, ensure that your characters are consistent in their ‘lives’, and develop how the world shapes them. External and internal factors make us the people that we are, and that goes the same for your fictional friends. Make them different, don’t be afraid to set them aside from the pack. Give them depth, a reason for existence, connectivity.

     And if all else, fails…I know a girl in a red hood who’s grandmother can school anyone in table-side manners.

D. E. M. Emrys. Author. Soldier by day, Soldier by night - Writer in Between. 
Author of Heroic Fantasies:

From Man to Man - Currently FREE from Amazon

No comments:

Post a Comment