Creating Complex Characters
By: Tia Love
How do you create characters?
Do you pull from your own personal experiences?
Do you go inside your head and base everything solely off of imagination?
If you are working on a piece of fiction, the greatest asset to your story is the character. It is through them that readers experience your story; they are the reasons readers fall in love with books. The characters are the ambassadors of the imaginary place you have created, so what are they saying about where they come from?
Do you have a lazy deadbeat that despises doing anything that doesn’t involve food? How about a neurotic hypochondriac that works in a daycare during cold season? Or is your character so complex that even you don’t understand them?
When you’re creating characters you always want to start with the end in mind. What is this character’s purpose in the story and how do things end for them? Once you have that figured out, you can give them personality traits and create life events that will lead your character to that desired end point.
Another good tip for character building is to do you research. Think about the last quirky individual you met that left a lasting impression on you. Have your character embody some of their traits that you feel go well with your storyline. Personally, when I build characters, I pull from my experiences with people I know and I mix it with a bit of my wild imagination.
For example, In one of my novels, there is a character named Gena, who everybody refers to as G. She is loud, rambunctious, bold, and vulgar. As a gorgeous, curvaceous woman, she knows the power her physical presence has on others, and does’t hesitate to use that to her advantage. Gena is a slightly altered version of my older sister, who is a sexy, bold individual that always speaks her mind.
Two more really good tools to use when creating characters are a character chart and a mind map. They’re a bit more technical than freely brainstorming, but they really help create a multi-dimensional character that’s more like the walking, talking, breathing humans we encounter everyday.
Character charts help to flush out all of the rudimentary details such as eye color, birth date, parentage, etc. A character chart usually looks like:
It’s a tool you can constantly reference, especially when searching for ways to reveal your character to the reader.
The mind map is a little bit different. It helps provide the back story and the events that will shape your character. Mind maps generally look like this:
These are the strategies that work for me but there are tons of different ways to create characters, you have to find the ones that work for you. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to make your characters too cookie-cutter or too perfect. Strive to make them as human as possible, with flaws and all. That will make them more relate-able as well as lovable.
Think of it like this:
Although Harry Potter was the savior for the entire magical population, he was still a teenage boy with the thoughts and actions native to a teenage boy. We loved him so much because, just like us, was flawed and imperfect.
Now get to it! I look forward to reading about all of the awesome, unique, complex characters you guys create.
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