How Not to Create a Character

do as I sayWhat is that old expression? Do what I tell you to do, not what I do? When you create a character, don’t do what I do.

I start out with an idea and a vague idea of a character. In my recent venture, a man from outer space sent to learn about earth, ends up in a nearby prison. He was supposed to subsume the body of a man in a suburb of Vancouver. Instead, he subsumes the body of inmate Tuko.

My idea was to expose the prison system to some humor.

As I turned in chapter after chapter to my writing group, the questions came. What about the man’s family? What does he look like? What is his reaction when a prison tough beats him up? And more. The award-winning question was: inner problem“What’s his inner problem?”

And the questions were not just about my space-man, but also about Tuko.

My method of learning as I go, involves a lot of re-writes. What if I had sat down beforehand and answered a list of questions about my character?

What do you do? How do you create a character?

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12 responses to “How Not to Create a Character

  1. This has been happening to me. I wrote a short funny Jewish vamp story and got some “that’s good” and grammar/typo edits back. Then I handed it to a friend who goes through submissions for a writers workshop… Now I’m working on character sketches, worldbuilding, blurbs, outlines… All the things I tell my authors to do. I’m a pantser at heart but until I’m really good at fiction writing I need to do all the basics. Over time I may be able to do shorter versions of the above and more pantsing but for now I need to practice what I preach.

  2. I outline my characters. They have to feel real to me. I usually use a composite of people I know or have met or come across. I give them faults, what they like, what they look like, where they’re from, what they want to be when they grow up, how they feel about certain things, where they’d like to go or be. I rarely use all what I have set down for that character but it makes the characters stronger. More logical.

  3. I create character as I go, Ed – but then I’m an 8+ draft writer. I’m slow as a tortoise, but I enjoy the process. Thank you for the kind words, btw, I can’t remember at the moment whether I emailed you my thanks or not: I remember being about to push the Send button when we lost power here; now I’m uncertain whether it went or not.

  4. I pretty much start out like Tasha, but I do have an idea, however vague, of what the characters are like. This is based mainly on what I perceive as their background. One character I had was a prince, and his actions were based mostly on his upbringing as a member of the royal family, even though he’d opted to abandon his family. Another character has “something to hide,” and his actions stem from that, with tragedy ensuing. So I guess I’m a pantser with accessories :O)

  5. Characters. I have probably made more this year than any other. More recently for a series of stories, concerning a club in Prague. From the Aussie back packer barmaid, to the part time porn star from Sweden, with the biggest breasts you ever see, the Comic book collector with a passion for Superman, that would have any sane collector gasping. Over the top, out of the ballpark. I like to create larger than life personalities, then thrust them into various scenarios to test their emotional states, or, to add humour to the main story. Something as easy as a photograph, or my imagination, I can conj our them up with ease, when working with a group of writers. ❤

  6. I usually start off with an interesting character doing something in a scene. then I go back and start with a personality and start building layers. It takes some time but it does help later in the story when a surprise gets thrown their way.

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