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What is your process for character creation?

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Kakie

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I am curious to know the different ways other writers work through this process.
Do you start with a general profile? Do you make it up as you go?

I am looking forward to hearing your answers.
 
Warmest Regards,
-Kakie

 :grouphug2
#1 - April 21, 2008, 09:10 PM

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Characters *come* to me ... then I spend a lot of time figuring out who they are.  I know it sounds flaky but I don't feel like I create them, they're just there ... usually in a pickle ... and the story develops from there.
Vijaya
#2 - April 21, 2008, 09:38 PM
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From a few carefully chosen beginnings, the characters just grow for me and I find I'm no longer creating them, I'm getting to know them.  The first thing I want to know about a main character is, what is this character's passion?  Then I want to know what is the one thing that makes this character different from the average kid on the street.  And, from my experience in theatre, I want to know what the character wants and what his motivations are.  If I am playing a part on stage or directing a play, I need to find things that can actually be used to show the character.  It's nice to know a lot of little character details that may or may not work their way into the story, but as one of my favorite directors likes to say, "Yes, but is it playable?"  Can I actually use that detail to build the character?

If it's a supporting character I need to know what makes him similar to and different from the main characters who the story is about.  The character quirks seem to grow out of that.  After I had finished my current WIP, I found there was a scene in which I needed a certain character to say something very important to the MC and there was no one in my cast with the right attitude for this important speech.  I created a new character an incorporated him into the story, starting with that key scene.  The character was built around creating a believable character who would deliver those lines; a boy with a secret who had just moved to town from Queens.  His different perspective was just what the story needed.  I also take into account things like birth order.  How are my characters' personalities developed by their interfamily relationships?  Is this character under the domination of an older sibling?

I also want to know little signature quirks.  My MC is constantly wearing his favorite T-shirt, a shirt with a graphic that is very telling about his character.  One of my girls is quite fond of saying "oh, crap."

And after 32 years as a teacher, I must admit that I have stolen seeds of characters from many kids I have known through the years.

Another peculiarity for me is that for adult characters, I want to know what kind of car they drive.  That tells me pretty much everything I need to know about that person.  For example, the mother of my current MC is a school librarian who drives a purple PT Cruiser.  The principal of the MC's school is a woman who drives a black Corvette convertible.  Once I know what cars my adult characters drive, everything falls into place as far as character development.  It may not be a "playable" detail, but playable details can grow out of this.
#3 - April 22, 2008, 04:35 AM

Z-cat

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I agree the above. I don't think I've ever created a character as much as I've spent time getting to know them. They already have their personalities when I "meet" them- and they show up anytime! Once I've been introduced, I just ask questions, and usually the answers present themselves.

1846- I love your comment about the cars. Which teacher at your school drives the green diesel engine Volkswagen that has been converted to run on french fry oil?
#4 - April 22, 2008, 06:48 AM

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I don't create characters either. I have to wait for them to show up. My current WIP took over 3 months to get going because I had the plot, but no one to play the parts. No one was showing up for work and I was almost ready to give up on the whole idea and move on to something different. I gave it one last try, though, and just sat down and started writing and BOOM! There she was. She'd been there all along; she was just shy.

I think I created one character in my MG - the mom - I had no choice because she just never arrived naturally. But I had such a tough time making her seem real since she was just made up.

My son has a shirt that I sometimes steal for the day. It says, "I live in my own little world. It's okay, they know me there." So. Very. True. All my characters live there along with a few I've never met.
#5 - April 22, 2008, 07:38 AM

Kakie

Guest
Nothing weird about that at all. We all have our own process taht works for us. Thank you for sharing yours!

Characters *come* to me ... then I spend a lot of time figuring out who they are.  I know it sounds flaky but I don't feel like I create them, they're just there ... usually in a pickle ... and the story develops from there.
Vijaya
#6 - April 22, 2008, 06:19 PM

Kakie

Guest
I can identify with that. Initially we knew the basics for each character in the series, but we are getting to know them as time goes on. It is kind of funny because when we first started, I wasn't quite sure where to start. I love your comments about the cars. That is a funny one! Thanks for sharing!


From a few carefully chosen beginnings, the characters just grow for me and I find I'm no longer creating them, I'm getting to know them.  The first thing I want to know about a main character is, what is this character's passion?  Then I want to know what is the one thing that makes this character different from the average kid on the street.  And, from my experience in theatre, I want to know what the character wants and what his motivations are.  If I am playing a part on stage or directing a play, I need to find things that can actually be used to show the character.  It's nice to know a lot of little character details that may or may not work their way into the story, but as one of my favorite directors likes to say, "Yes, but is it playable?"  Can I actually use that detail to build the character?

If it's a supporting character I need to know what makes him similar to and different from the main characters who the story is about.  The character quirks seem to grow out of that.  After I had finished my current WIP, I found there was a scene in which I needed a certain character to say something very important to the MC and there was no one in my cast with the right attitude for this important speech.  I created a new character an incorporated him into the story, starting with that key scene.  The character was built around creating a believable character who would deliver those lines; a boy with a secret who had just moved to town from Queens.  His different perspective was just what the story needed.  I also take into account things like birth order.  How are my characters' personalities developed by their interfamily relationships?  Is this character under the domination of an older sibling?

I also want to know little signature quirks.  My MC is constantly wearing his favorite T-shirt, a shirt with a graphic that is very telling about his character.  One of my girls is quite fond of saying "oh, crap."

And after 32 years as a teacher, I must admit that I have stolen seeds of characters from many kids I have known through the years.

Another peculiarity for me is that for adult characters, I want to know what kind of car they drive.  That tells me pretty much everything I need to know about that person.  For example, the mother of my current MC is a school librarian who drives a purple PT Cruiser.  The principal of the MC's school is a woman who drives a black Corvette convertible.  Once I know what cars my adult characters drive, everything falls into place as far as character development.  It may not be a "playable" detail, but playable details can grow out of this.
#7 - April 22, 2008, 06:25 PM

mswatkins

Guest
I've forced characters before and they failed miserably, yet others have just appeared as I'm writing and I think they are great. 

I might have a hole in my story and eventually someone, or something comes along that fits perfectly, and other times a character comes along and I make my story fit around them. 

It's totally willy nilly for me.  I sound like a nutter.
#8 - April 22, 2008, 06:26 PM

Kakie

Guest
Thanks for sharing!

I agree the above. I don't think I've ever created a character as much as I've spent time getting to know them. They already have their personalities when I "meet" them- and they show up anytime! Once I've been introduced, I just ask questions, and usually the answers present themselves.

1846- I love your comment about the cars. Which teacher at your school drives the green diesel engine Volkswagen that has been converted to run on french fry oil?
#9 - April 22, 2008, 06:27 PM

mswatkins

Guest
SBK - Your son's shirt is awesome.  I refer to my writing as "Going to my happy place." 
#10 - April 22, 2008, 06:28 PM

Kakie

Guest
I can relate, sometimes I try to write and *poof* nothing, I can't bring myself to. Then there are other times I sit down and everything magically starts to flow. I have been there. I like your perspective! Thanks!

I don't create characters either. I have to wait for them to show up. My current WIP took over 3 months to get going because I had the plot, but no one to play the parts. No one was showing up for work and I was almost ready to give up on the whole idea and move on to something different. I gave it one last try, though, and just sat down and started writing and BOOM! There she was. She'd been there all along; she was just shy.

I think I created one character in my MG - the mom - I had no choice because she just never arrived naturally. But I had such a tough time making her seem real since she was just made up.

My son has a shirt that I sometimes steal for the day. It says, "I live in my own little world. It's okay, they know me there." So. Very. True. All my characters live there along with a few I've never met.
#11 - April 22, 2008, 06:30 PM

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