A Musing on Character Creation

I’m working on my characters for my WIP at the moment. Something that has been going on for about 3 months now – since I decided to set aside the word count goals and deepen my story structure. I felt too detached and unsure of where the characters were headed, the characters just didn’t feel real.

On that note, I’ve successfully created intricate pasts for each of my main characters and a couple of my secondary characters, though one (my favourite) has been particularly elusive.

In an attempt to keep the characters unique, I try to keep their pasts as separate as possible (in that their pasts were significantly different) and I try to keep them from being too cliché.

That’s a difficult notion, especially when the character count begins to build, and your anxiety for your WIP affects how you see your ideas.

On that elusive character, I had a personality firmly set in concrete, one that I am unwilling to shift in the slightest simply because I adore the affect he can have on the story, yet I wanted his past to contrast entirely with his present personality.

Easier said than done.

And on top of that, I wanted him to be entirely secretive and defensive about his past but still seem positive about life on the whole.

Mind-boggling.

After some (procrastinating) twitter questions and a conversation with another writer ( @melindrea82 ), I have gained insight into and inspiration for my current road-block. Social media, and the internet in general, certainly make a writer’s life much easier – and more challenging – in this era (but that’s a story for another time).

Character creation is difficult. Especially when you want them to feel real, you want the reader to envision this person standing in their minds, as solid and human as you or I, you want the reader to feel the character’s emotions and to see the character’s motives as genuine and believable. You want them to think that if they were in the character’s shoes, they would do the same.

Yet the simple action of putting down every little detail onto paper, fuses the character with fiction, and makes them seem as nothing more than page-bound; a mere sequence of words amongst thousands of others.

How does one create a living, breathing being from a series of symbols on a page?

I guess the trick I’ve learnt, though it has been said many, many times by other (more experienced and professional) writers, is to think of those we have known and to take inspiration from public figures and personal friends, whether from your past or present. To study the effects certain past events have had on present character building.

And, not least of all, to study yourself, as honestly and openly as you can bring yourself to. To look at the root cause of your own actions, what deep-seated fears play havoc on your every thought, and what caused them in the first place.

I think a little bit of myself went into every character so far, and I don’t think it’s much different for most other writers.

After all, humans are faucets all kinds of emotions and personalities. We merely need the right triggers.

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