30 Day Writing Meme: Character Ideas

July 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

Day 09 → How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

Central characters usually come first, telling me their stories. I have a basic idea of who they are. Then their role as antagonist or protagonist develops as I come to understand who else is in their immediate world. As I start to write about them, either in story creation or in free writing, I will start to bring in the "what if" elements that change details. Sometimes those details change the whole story.

My characters come from dreams, or variations on a character in someone else’s canon. For example, I mentioned earlier that Jouet began as a plot device in fanfiction. She needed to have elements that inspired a magic creation in canon timeline, so I knew she had long hair and long life (literally the first things I knew about her). Therefore, she became an immortal faerie, and that among fae hair was a status marker.

That she is confident, hot-tempered, and vengeful don’t feel like created (imposed) elements. Her personality, details of her looks, were just there. I’m quite sure that my subconscious mind works on characters and stories, which is why I have "story dreams" that are like little movies, and why a character comes on stage so close to complete. Ask me any simple question (what kind of pizza? sleeps in socks?) about any character of mine, and I will know without over thinking.

Side and supporting characters need more shaping, more active character creation, because they are storytelling elements as well as people. That’s how we tell our own stories about events, memories, our encounters. We explain relationships, or give some aspect of the person who was involved in the story we are telling.

As I start actually writing the story, I’ll be inspired to add layers to all the characters. I might hear some dialog that I think fits or even see an outfit that suits a character. Then there is the Bechdel test; if I’m not passing it, then roles get shuffled. Along the same lines, I am OK with updating character design to add diversity and create representation. It’s too easy to write bland characters when they are all the same age, same racial background, same economic background, same regional background, physically "able," and neurologically typical. Real people aren’t any kind of standard issue, so why would characters be?

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