Making Those Fun Little Characters…

So, since I’m working on a new story, I figured I’d talk about my writing process and that fun stuff.  Today, I’m going to talk about—*drum roll*—creating characters!  Characters are one of the most important part of a story after all.  You can have an amazing, original plot and a believable, fun world, but without characters… Good luck telling the story!

Alright, so when I create characters, I have two ways of going about this.  First, is to fill out a character creation form.  This is good for characters that you already have a bit of an idea of who they are, or you want a really detailed character.  I often use these for my protagonists and narrators.  The one I use most often is the Elfwood Character Creation Form.

But sometimes, that just doesn’t cut it.  Maybe filling out the form is too tedious, or you don’t need that much information, or maybe you just need a new character, right then and there, without much to him or her.  In this case, I make up the personality by describing their appearance.  Sounds a little strange, I know, but hear me out.

A lot of times, when a writer is describing a new character, they give you some general information.  Height, eye color, hair color, et cetera.  Good police profile, but when you’re trying to introduce a character, it’s not so nice.  Why?  Because, well, think about it.  Why are you describing this character to begin with?  A. You want to tell the reader who this person is, and B. you want them to see the character like you do.  Well, if you do a simple police profile, you won’t necessarily give a detailed image.  For example, what if I tell you that I have brown hair and blue eyes?  And freckles?  Do you know what I look like now?  If you were to find an image of me, would you be able to tell that it was me, just with the information I gave you?  No way.  There are a lot of people out there with brown hair, blue eyes, and freckles.

So, if you’re not supposed to give the simple facts, then should you spend three paragraphs describing some more of the details?  No, you’ll bore your reader.  What you should do is pick three, really important features of the character that really stand out, and tell those to your reader.  After all, what color their hair is isn’t really important to the plot, is it?  Even if it was, you can tell the reader simple things like height, hair style, et cetera in other ways.  It’s not that important when the character is first introduced.

Say you told the reader that your newest character had unbrushed hair and simple, slightly wrinkled clothing.  This will paint one of two images—the first being that this character is very busy, so much, in fact, that they had no chance to worry about what they looked like.  Or, you will get the picture that this person is casual, laid back, and doesn’t care what they look like.  You can add to either of those images by showing other details.  Are they dirty or clean?  Are they holding anything?

In the end, you can use this method two ways.  If you have a personality, you can pick the right things to give an appearance that reflects that.  Or, you can pick three random things about the appearance, and use whatever personality comes with it.

You can also do this with other things, like actions.  All you have to say is ‘he smacked his forehead into the doorway’, and you the know the character is tall.  Or he’s visiting a hobbit.

Anyway…  there’s my ramble on character creation.


2 thoughts on “Making Those Fun Little Characters…

  1. That’s very good advice! Something I’ve found what helps me is writing their background…not in the way that is “Jane went to school, until….then she did this…then….” but in short story format, stuff about sometimes insignificant happenings, like drinking cocoa. It gives me a feeling for the way they act, talk, etc.
    Though, this wouldn’t work if you needed one quickly.

  2. Yes, that’s a good way of doing it, too! It’s fun, and it can give you some of those little details that you didn’t know would be important, but really are. I like doing things like that for my main characters sometimes.

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