When looking through various logs, fora and videos, one question I see coming up more often than others is, “How do I come up with characters for my book?”
I think I, personally, am pretty lucky. Character creation has always come pretty easily to me, but there are certain things that I do, when sitting down to write out the characters that will be in my stories, that I think help out with that situation. I thought I would share some of them here for you guys, in the hopes that it helps to alleviate some of the stress that comes with this topic.
It can definitely be stressful, too. I have seen people completely give up on a great story ida simply because they could not come up with characters that would fit into the ideas they had.
This saddens me greatly, especially when there are so many tools out there today that could help to simply the process dramatically.
My Background Helped Me
I come from the background of being a person very interested in Role Playing Games, or RPGs.
Let me explain for those unfamiliar with these types of games.
There are two primary types of RPGs: the pen and paper versions, and the computer versions. Both share some of the same ideas in the way they work, but pen and paper – PnP – RPGs, more than the computer versions, focused greatly upon the player’s imagination to visualize the action taking place.
PC games, in contrast, are more focused on the action, itself, rather than the in-depth character creation, modeling, and so forth that goes into these types of games.
In both, the idea is to have a character that represents yourself – your avatar – go through a series of adventures until you finally reach the end.
While I do thoroughly enjoy playing computer RPGs, in their many forms and formats, I started out as a pen and paper RPGer. In fact, I spent a lot of time as a Game Master, or Dungeon Master. When creating the adventures for my players to run through, I would sometimes have to come up with many – even dozens – different characters to flesh out the world that the players would be interacting with.
So, I had to learn how to create them quickly and not be bogged down by the job.
I came up with a few simple solutions that helped me out greatly, and I’d like to share them with you.
First, and foremost, is a character sheet.
A character sheet is a simple list of things that you can fill out that will give you small pieces of the puzzle that makes up the character you are creating.
For instance, on a character sheet, you could list questions, such as, “What is the name?” “What is the sex?” “What is the age?”
These simple ones lead to deeper ones.
“What town do they live in? Where did they grow up?”
“What is their favorite food? Favorite color?”
“What is the thing they love the most, or hold most dear? What is their biggest pet peeve? What is their most hated thing?”
I know some people that have come up with elaborate lists of character questions, which are, essentially, character traits, that they will fill out a hundred or more questions about the character.
While I would definitely not say this would be something to do for the simple “extras: type of characters you might need to use in your novel, it COULD be useful for those that are more important to the story line of your book.
SAMPLE CHARACTER SHEET
OTHER USEFUL TOOLS
Another useful tool is, of course, the Internet. What I mean in this context is you can make use of Google Images to find a profile picture of the character you are trying to create.
If you have a general idea of what they look like – by filling out a character record sheet, you will have a basic appearance for them written down – you can do a search on Google to find something similar.
For instance, if you’ve got an idea that your character is a blonde woman with green eyes, you could search Google for “Female blonde green eyes” and click Images. You could then save to your computer or phone a picture that best represents the one you are creating. You could even print it out, if you wish, and have it nearby as you are writing.
Some people have trouble coming up with names for characters; I am one of those. For those of us name-challenged folks, there are many apps you can download for free which will generate random names for you.
Here are a few Random Name Generators you can use which are web-based:
I use Scrivener (Yes, it’s an affiliate link) for my novel writing.
One of the tools that it includes is a name generator that is really in-depth. It’s one of my favorite features of the program. You could even have it break a name generation down to single or double name, origin, such as Chinese, Jewish, Native American and so on, and even give you the chance to configure it to go with names that start with a certain letter.
It’s really nice, and is one of the many reasons I recommend using the software.
If that one is out for you, however, there are man that you can download free for both phones and computer systems, which will more than suffice.
It’s meant to be a tool to inspire, not replace inspiration, so use it as you find necessary.
The point is to get the juices flowing and NOT be intimidated by character creation.
It’s not as hard as some people make it out to be, especially with so many tools available to help you out.
One Final Note
One final thing that I would add in to all of this: don’t hold your characters back.
What I mean with this is, if a character is being written into your book, and starts to go in directions you did not expect, it is actually a very good thing. It means that your character is taking on a life of its own and your subconscious is treating it as a living, breathing entity, with its own desires and personality.
LET THIS HAPPEN!
I can’t tell you how many people I have know that complain about the characters in their novels not wanting to follow what the author is wanting them to do, and I tell them, :Let them!”
In my current novel, Voices Carry, for instance, one of the characters – a woman named Salla – was originally intended to be a certain way in the book, and even had a backstory to her that I thought was quite good.
However, as the writing has gone on, Salla has shifted directions on me, bringing something into the story that I never originally intended, but, now that it has, I could not imagine the story being any other way.
Had I limited Salla to what I had outlined her to be, this would not have happened. She even brought a brand-new character with her, and created a whole series of subplots to boot!
Again, something the novel never would have had, if I had limited her or put her under a tight leash. My story is now better for it, and you may find yours would be too.
Breathe life into your characters, let them flourish without a thumb holding them down, and see where they take you.
You might be very surprised at the results!