Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Creating Credible Characters

Left to right: front-Diane Mechem Kinser, Paul Cornell (aka Waldo Schmidtlapp), middle-E.S. (Eric) Moore, Rita L. Smith, Summer K. Clark, back-Braden Greiner.

You have an idea for your story, now what?  It's time to figure out who will be your main character (usually the protagonist). Your reader needs to feel something for your character, but how do you create feeling for a character that is flat?  Think of them as real characters (My characters are screaming at me, "We are real!!!")  Assign them attributes that you would see in others.  Some kind of quirk makes them more accessable.

Here is a character sheet that my niece and her friend developed when they were in middle grade or high school.  They encompassed quite a bit in there character bio, it may help you to get to know your character better.

1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Height:
4. Eye color:
5. Physical appearance:
6. Strange or unique physical attributes:
7. Favorite clothing style/outfit:
8. Where does he or she live? What is it like there?
9. Defining gestures/movements (i.e., curling his or her lip when he or she speaks, always keeping his or her eyes on the ground, etc.):
10. Things about his or her appearance he or she would most like to change:
11. Speaking style (fast, talkative, monotone, etc.):
12. Pet peeves:
13. Fondest memory:
14. Hobbies/interests:
15. Special skills/abilities:
16. Insecurities:
17. Quirks/eccentricities:
18. Temperament (easygoing, easily angered, etc.):
19. Negative traits:
20. Things that upset him or her:
21. Things that embarrass him or her:
22. This character is highly opinionated about:
23. Any phobias?
24. Things that make him or her happy:
25. Family (describe):
26. Deepest, darkest secret:
27. Reason he or she kept this secret for so long:
28. Other people's opinions of this character (What do people like about this character? What do they dislike about this character?):
29. Favorite bands/songs/type of music:
30. Favorite movies:
31. Favorite TV shows:
32. Favorite books:
33. Favorite foods:
34. Favorite sports/sports teams:
35. Political views:
36. Religion/philosophy of life:
37. Physical health:
38. Dream vacation:
39. Description of his or her house:
40. Description of his or her bedroom:
41. Any pets?
42. Best thing that has ever happened to this character:
43. Worst thing that has ever happened to this character:
44. Superstitions:
45.Three words to describe this character
46.If a song played every time this character walked into the room, what song would it be?
Supporting Character Questions
1. Relationship to the protagonist:
2. Favorite thing about the protagonist:
3. Similarities to protagonist:
4.Differences from protagonist:
Antagonist Questions
1. Why is he or she facing off against the protagonist?
2. Any likeable traits?

Some authors have their characters write about themselves or the author interviews the characters.  Don't forget that you protagonist has to elicit emotions from your readers, they must be interesting.  In "To Walk the Night" by E.S. Moore, Kat Redding isn't always likeable, she can be downright rude, but she is interesting.  She is a highly emotional, usually angry, vampire, who happens to kill other vampires to keep humans safe.  This is a simplified version of her personality, but it is why I like her.

You will, also, need an antagonist.  This is the person or situation that causes your protagonist grief.  Without conflict their is no story.

Keep your characters to a minimum.  Use a new character only when necessary.

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