Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Creating Characters

I've never really created a character before. I know that probably sounds silly, a glance to my bio on the right tells you I've written seventeen novels. They must be damned boring if they don't have any characters in them.

What I really mean is that usually, my characters just sort of appear in my head fully-formed. Or at least, almost fully-formed. They often come without names, their personalities are intact and so are their physical features, I just have to slap a name on them. Really, that's the only decision I make about the characters, (and it's a hideously difficult process). Occasionally, I'll tweak ages, but that's pretty much it. They just spring into being, like meeting a new person in real life. You don't chose how old they are or what they look like or how they behave, they're just there. And for me, that's what my characters are like.

Right now, however, I'm working on creating a character. I realised my main character (who was pretty much cooked but went through several names before I was happy) needed a friend. This friend did not occur naturally, I had to build her. I had to decide gender, height, build, hair colour, likes, dislikes, annoying habits, wardrobe, hobbies, family...everything. And I've really enjoyed doing it. I think I always felt a bit sorry for people whose characters didn't just come naturally, (I'm a horribly smug person, I know), and had to work on that bit too. But now, I kind of wish I'd had to do this sooner, because designing people is really fun.

Naming her was still a complete pain, though.


  1. I absolutely agree - and love the idea of 'designing' characters. I have found though that there's a cut-off where the addition of personality traits and indeed, flaws goes too far. I have on occasion slipped into a sort of cartooning process making some characters more and more flamboyant (can't think why...) until they spill over into absurdity. How often do you base your char.s on real people? Have you ever, say, written your mother, brother or best friend? It's one of the most fun and interesting explorations of personality I've ever taken part in.

    1. It's so much fun, I can't believe I've never really done it before. Except in classes, when it seems like a chore and you dash off the first thing that pops into your head.

      You? Flamboyant? Never!

      As a rule, I don't base characters on real people. In fact, I can't think of any time I've done, even by accident. Occasionally, I'll borrow a line or two from a conversation I have with someone, but I don't really like to write about anything or anyone real. Part of what I love about writing is the fact that it's an entirely creative process. It's one of the reasons I'm terrible at editing my own work!

  2. I love putting together people and thinking about what goes into a believable character, but then I often get to writing and it all goes out the window and whoever the character wants to be takes over. It's kind of annoying, but does keep me on my toes :)