Crafting a Character
Have you ever wondered what goes into creating your favorite character? Well, if you have, this is the post for you.
Creating characters is part of why I love to write. Sure, the story itself comes to life during the actual writing process, but the characters find life long before chapter 1.
I’m sure all writers have their own way of creating characters. What works for one person might not work another. That said, here’s a bit of insight into how my characters find life:
It begins with an idea. Sounds obvious, but the truth is the characters pop into my head for a variety of reasons. Maybe I like a name I heard and I want to use it. Or maybe I’ve seen someone – in a movie or TV show – who sparks my interest and who I could create a character after. Or maybe it’s a song I’ve heard, that suddenly gives me a bigger idea. Whatever the case may be, once I have that tiny spark, I pull up my outline and begin to bring my babies to life.
I like having a picture to work with. I suppose it makes the fictional character more real if I have a pretty face to use as my muse. So if I don’t have a particular person in mind for that muse, I go to work on the internet. I pull up pictures of models and scroll through until someone catches my eye. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
What’s in a name? The names are the toughest, by far. Usually I will research names on baby sites, but occasionally I’ll hear a name out in the real world that peeks my interest. Getting the right flow – attractive first name, last name that doesn’t sound too involved but mixes nicely with the first – is tough. I’ve been known to spend hours researching names.
Once I’ve got a name and a face, the rest of the character’s physical details come fairly quickly. Eye color, body type, voice….I rarely struggle over any of those details. I guess you could say that I know what I like.
A character in a novel is not just a pretty face. That ‘person’ needs to have a history, a family, friends. He/she has a job, a vehicle, and a home…all items that I get to add as part of the puzzle that will bring my ‘person’ to life. I love imagining where my characters live, how they decorate, if they are messy or not. For example, in “Saving Cruz”, he’s wealthy and driven to succeed, and his home reflects that; large, pricey, and cold. Whereas Amita in “Taming Marco” is somewhat of a slob when we first meet her, which directly coincides with the chaos in her life.
Personality is everything. As each character is an individual, so is each one’s personality. We see Cruz as icy and buttoned-up, Marco as completely uncensored, Roman with his sweet-talking ways. Each one has a distinctive personality, and for me that’s something I might initially have thoughts on, but typically the character will “create” his/her own personality as the story develops. For example, I knew I wanted Cruz to come across as untouchable, but what I didn’t know is that he had it within him to unravel emotionally. That’s the beautiful part of writing….waiting to see what happens next.
Some characters take a bit of time to create. Others are so multi-dimensional it’s necessary for me to really get to know them first (sounds weird, I know). For some – not all – I will complete this Character Interview form I found online. I answer the questions as if I am the character, which then gives me more insight into how that ‘person’ thinks, feels, reacts.
Okay….so I’ve got a pretty face, a name, a home and car. Now comes the hard part….what is that character’s story? Some authors completely outline their work chapter by chapter and that works for them. I will usually know which direction I want to go, and an idea of where I see the story ending, but that’s about it. I’ll outline a few chapters to get myself started, and sit back and let the magic happen.
Stuck in the middle. I almost always get stuck in the middle of drafting a manuscript. Usually, it’s after the characters finally get together (the first time they kiss or have sex). All those previous chapters were leading up to that big moment, which then leaves me asking myself ‘what next’? I might step away for a week or two (sometimes only a few hours), and then I’m putting down some notes about where I see the rest of the story going. It’s all a process of give and take. Some days, I’m writing like a maniac and can’t get the words down fast enough. Other days, a few sentences is something I’ll struggle over. Having done this a long time now, I know me and I know if I struggle for too long, I need to walk away.
No duplicates. As all people are different, so are my characters. Sure, the men are all handsome and the women are all beautiful, but each one is special in his/her own way. It was once pointed out to me that all my women seem to have dark hair, so I was quick to switch my female characters to either blondes or redheads. It’s no surprise that I prefer men with dark hair too, but I’ve been trying very hard to give my characters a bit more diversity (in look and in color).
Creating characters and their world is my favorite part of the writing process. The story itself is work….a lot of work. I’d be lying if I said I looked forward to spending hours crafting words. I do it because it’s what I’m called to….and because in the end I’ll read over something and wonder how the hell I could have written something like that (be it good or bad).