As you know, last week I did a fun character tag (thanks again, Addie!) based on little personality quirks that you think your characters would have. Kai would apparently look good in a kilt. Who knew?
If you didn’t get a chance to read that post, here is a link!
But after thinking about it, I had an idea. I shared small interesting tidbits about my characters quirks and the like, but it didn’t necessarily give you insight into how I created the characters. This post today will be for those of you who want to craft deep and meaningful characters but don’t have a starting place. Not just them, but this will also be to the well-seasoned writers who have methods but want to learn more.
It could also be for those who like hearing me ramble. It will probably end up being some of that. 🙂 buckle up!
There is a great writing book that I use regularly. Well, there are many great writing books that I use regularly, but this one is what this post is really about. This book is called “Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development” by K.M. Weiland. (go click that link, she’s amazing!)
In this book, Weiland provides a fairly simple, organized way to discover your characters in their entirety. (Some parts of this are from my own brain, just so y’all are aware. 😉 )
To illustrate her tactics, we shall be using a character of my own. His name is Jaxen. You guys may have met. 😀 So with that in mind, let’s get rolling!!!
The first step to creating a character is to get a basic ground-level knowledge of who you want this person (or whatever you fancy) to be.
This means you ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this character? What do I want this character to be?” The answer to this question should be easy to find. Protagonist, antagonist, filler character who serves no purpose except to die
not like i’ve done that; whatever works well within your storyline. When you have the storyline, you can infuse that into the character. Don’t over-stress at this point. We all can pick apart the little things later.
Normally this stage involves naming the character (but honestly, sometimes that takes YEARS.) but it doesn’t have to. Heaven knows it doesn’t have to. XD
In my case, Jaxen Flaherty simultaneously came to me all at once and never in a million years. I have still not worked everything out. He’s a tricky little boy.
Things that help you see your character’s personality are the MBTI analysis tool or Enneagram. For instance, Jaxen is an INTP and a type Four.
Another trick: INTERVIEW clap YOUR clap CHARACTER clap. This gives you an insight into how they talk and how they see things. A little snippet from my Jaxen interview. Notice simple questions. M is me, J is Jaxen.
M: What makes you angry?
J: Being forgotten. Being left behind.
M: What makes you cry?
J: See the question above.
M: What people, places, or situations do you tend to avoid?
J: Hm. I tend to avoid being alone. Memories aren’t pleasant and I don’t enjoy facing them by myself. That’s about it.
M: mhm I see. Any hidden talents?
J: laughs so I’ve been told by many that I have the voice an angel…
M: smirks were they female???
M: laughing really hard Favorite food?
J: anything besides the rations. Holiday foods.
M: Can you describe them?
J: Tons of perfectly cooked meats, they’re really tender. Typically served with rice or pasta or something. We have vegetables too, but I never really eat them…? Um, we also have amazing loaves of bread. And then just about every dessert you can think of. It’s all amazing. No one really has these meals anymore, especially since the Shard rose. I’ve only had the leftovers of one in my lifetime. But I’ve been told of these feasts often. Apparently, they used to happen twice a week!
M: That sounds amazing!!
J: From what I could tell from the leftovers, they really were.
M: Do you ever hope you can eat one someday?
J: With everything in me.
M: Favorite song?
J: A scavenger lullaby. It’s eerie but it’s soothing now.
M: Favorite color?
J: Yellow. It’s so bright and happy. It doesn’t need to be the bright neon painful yellow that the Shard uses to advertise medicine. Soft pastels and cheery sunflower. That’s all I really want.
M: Beautiful. Childhood daydreams?
J: You may think this weird, but I always wanted a sister to take care of. I always dreamed of what I’d do with her if I had one I mean. I know I don’t have any biological sisters but maybe I’ll be a brother to a friend someday.
M: that’s so sweet. I’m sure you’ll find someone to be a brother to, too.
J: I’m sure I will. grins
goes and cries in corner about my sweet scavenger child…
As you can see, the first step is to learn the basics of the person. What makes them tick? Once you’ve figured that out, you can move on to more fun things!
Secondly, what lie is your character believing?
rubs hands together
This is where the rubber meets the road. You thought your character was innocent. HAHAHA that’s cute. Just kidding, they ain’t.
There are a couple questions you can ask about your character. Not interview style, but just as an author who knows all (mwahaha). Here are a couple of mine:
Q: What misconception does Jaxen have about himself or the world?
A: I think that Jaxen considers himself to be a total screw-up. Like everyone kind of does, but Jaxen thinks that if he was better, his parents would’ve never abandoned him and the scavengers wouldn’t have left him.
Q: What is he lacking mentally, physically, or spiritually as a result?
A: Hm. I think that Jaxen is lacking both mentally and spiritually. Mentally, I think the biggest thing is that he’s never okay with just sitting still, in his mind or his actions. He has to keep going. Keep pushing. He wants to make sure he is doing everything in his power to stay afloat. He can’t be abandoned if he is doing everything right. He is lacking spiritually because he won’t let God work on him. Jaxen thinks (keyword: thinks) he can change himself. Which isn’t true. Obviously. XD
Q: How is the interior Lie reflected in Jaxen’s exterior world?
A: Well, I think this is reflected in Jaxen’s unwillingness to trust. If he can save himself, why trust someone else to do it? He’s already been hurt by broken trust, so if he can fix it himself, why risk more hurt?
These questions really get things moving, because it takes your character from “okay” to “deep”. 🙂
The next thing to ask yourself is, “What does my character want/need?”
This should be an easy one to answer. Get inside the head of the person.
Q: What does your character Want more than anything?
A: He wants to be accepted. Accepted and loved. If you work hard enough to be loved, they won’t abandon you.
Q: How is his plot goal related to or an extension of the Thing He Wants?
A: If his plot goal is to find a place where he belongs, he’s gonna get there. Like the middle of the third book. It’s definitely an extension of the Thing He Wants.
Q: Does he believe the Thing He Wants will solve his personal problems?
Q: Is the Thing He Wants holding him back from the Thing He Needs?
A: Mm I actually don’t think so. The pursuit of “family” might actually guide him into the Thing He Needs.
Q: Does the Thing He Needs preclude his gaining the Thing He Wants- or will he only be able to gain the Thing He Wants only after he has found the Thing He Needs?
A: Absolutely. He needs to reach a place of finding God first, then his pieces will click.
This part of the process is really helpful, as it provides a driving force behind the person. It will play into the plot more than anything. If the character knows what he wants/needs, it will push him into every situation differently than if he didn’t have it to propel him.
This leads to the next topic: “What is my character’s ghost?”
Basically, the ghost is something that sticks around or “haunts” if you will the character. It comes into play when the person is around others, making decisions, or even just alone. Check out Jaxen’s ghost:
Q: What important personality trait, virtue, or skill best sums up your protagonist?
A: I’d say “moody-hard-worker”.
Q: How can you dramatize this trait to its fullest extent?
A: Ohhhhhhh haha I can do that. Moody is easy, and hard worker I can just make him uneasy when he’s not doing something.
Q: How can you dramatize this trait in a way that also introduces the plot?
A: He should probably get like anxious when he’s alone (abandonment) and then get kinda hyperactive when he’s not doing things (hard worker) ALL THE WHILE WITH KINDA MOODY INNER COMMENTS!!!!
Q: How can you demonstrate your protagonist’s belief in his Lie?
A: Idk but I think it’ll be simple. He has to be good enough. Like it’s a condition.
Q: Can you reveal or hint at his Ghost?
A: Oh boy I can do that. Anxiety when alone. It freaks him out. And has to keep moving with anything. Never stopping. I don’t even have to info dump. It’ll just be… him. It’ll come out in bits and pieces so I won’t dump. It’s gonna be a nice one.
Finally, how does this affect how my character sees the world around him/her?
This can come into existence in many different ways. Like in the first tip, you can just interview him until it comes out. Depending on how hard your character is, it could be more or less difficult. But you also could use the ghost to bring it out. 🙂 The character won’t even know that you’re pinpointing weaknesses so you can stab him later!
Q: How can you contrast the “Normal World” with the “Adventure World” to follow?
A: Right now, I’m thinking of having the Normal World be more dark and dusty and gritty. Kinda an interpretation of Jaxen’s mind at the time. And then the new world is suuuper bright. Lots of fluorescent lighting, still a cold vibe but better than what he’s had previously.
Q: How does the Normal World dramatize or symbolize your character’s enslavement to the Lie?
A: I think people around the Shard and especially in the little villages not in the central hub are trying to get rid of all this dirt. Like both spiritual and physical. But they’re trying on their own, so it ain’t working. Jaxen is the same way.
Q: How is the Normal World causing or empowering the Lie?
A: Well, he’s alone constantly so he is constantly in fear of his past and being left again.
Q: Why is your character in the Normal World?
A: Because he was dumped there by the scavengers and he’s been too afraid to leave. He wants to, but he doesn’t.
cries more for my baby
Well, if you stuck with me that long, KUDOS TO YOU, AMAZING READER. This post was a long one. You are wonderful and I hope you have a great time using these handy little tips and tricks. ❤
I hope y’all enjoyed this style of thing! It definitely was fun and interesting to do this kind of a post, especially since, we all know me. I’m not one to be able to instruct you on writing techniques. 😉 But just the same, let me know what you thought!
Now go forth, mis amigos and amigas, and smile. Your day is just beginning. Make the best of it. Don’t procrastinate. Work hard. Make me proud. 🙂
Love you all,