How do you create your characters?

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How do you create your characters?

Post by Elowen-Astrid on Mon Mar 21, 2016 6:58 pm

We were discussing our protagonists at length in the other topic and it got me wondering. How do you create your characters?

For me I usually start with an idea or a picture. As was the case with two of my characters. I found some images and thought they could be grandmother and granddaughter. I played a bit with them in my head and I went looking for names. I am very particular about names and for the area where they live I tend to use Franco-Norman first names and old french and occupational by-names/surnames. I also use son/daughter of or certain characteristics of a character. When I have a clear enough idea of the character I write everything down and continue adding and revising information until I am happy about him/her.

To me characters are very much alive. I noticed this again when I was describing Oliver's trust Issues in the protagonist topic. My characters just happen to be a certain way, it is how and who they are. An example of this is the granddaughter, her name is Heliarde Thorel. I wasn't even working on her but it just popped up in my head that she was gay and not for the sake of creating diverse characters or a gay character. She just happened to be gay. She also just happens do do things in a certain way.

My process is rather messy and not always the same but I was wondering how you experience character creation and you characters. I would very much like to know your thoughts on it.
(I hope this was clear, I found it hard to put this into words)
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Call Me Nefret on Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:07 am

I create the personality first. I need to have their voice in my head. Often the strict physical descriptions are fairly vague, mostly hair color, eye color, and basic body type. I spend more time describing how they act. One character, for instance, is described as always holding herself as straight as possible, as if she's constantly in the midst of performance.

Names are also really important to me. I enjoy names that have special meanings or otherwise showcase a trait of the character. I even get nit picky about the spelling of the name (I spent the longest time trying to choose between Mirabel and Mirabelle).
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Waterfall17 on Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:59 am

My characters are meant to be discovered, too--they're already who they are, I just need to inspect and observe and question to get to know them. My characters sort of just come to me; I daydream and see them in a story setting--physical features and all--and run with it.

Names are important to me, too. If a name doesn't fit right, it's axed.

I think of my characters more as people than tools; I use them to accomplish what I need, of course, but I let it play out organically (seek vs forge). I do take a good bit of time piecing things together to see if they fit--I take personality quizzes and read up on types extensively. Interviews may be good for voice, but I find them more cumbersome than anything. Voice is also something that I draw out by listening and comparing to the character intuitively
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Poetic-Jessie on Tue Mar 22, 2016 11:00 am

Similar to Waterfall17, I daydream and stories just come to me. Or I see a bus poster and think, "That's a cool picture, what would life be like if such and such happened?" Then my characters come as a part of that story and I get to know my characters through my story.

The most notable example of this was when I was writing about an assassin. I didn't understand her until 3/4 of the way through the book, yet she still acted consistently throughout despite this. Thinking about it now, doing a personality quiz for her might have been advantageous on my part, I would have been able to get to know her before a lot of the story was written.

The only time I had a character in mind before I wrote the story was when I saw a picture of a lady and she had such mischief in her eyes that I thought I wanted to write about her. So I did, and the adventures she went on in my book were unlike most of the other adventures I've ever written about.

Also, I get inspired by my dreams. I wake up after a really interesting dream, which detailed characters and the story and I write it down.

Names aren't as important to me, same as how the character looks. I guess this is because I come up with story first, then discover my characters through the story. I usually look around myself and make names up based on what's around me (window + brick = Windrick, cat + chair = Chatsi, etc.)
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Call Me Nefret on Tue Mar 22, 2016 11:45 am

Poetic-Jessie wrote:Similar to Waterfall17, I daydream and stories just come to me. Or I see a bus poster and think, "That's a cool picture, what would life be like if such and such happened?" Then my characters come as a part of that story and I get to know my characters through my story.

The most notable example of this was when I was writing about an assassin. I didn't understand her until 3/4 of the way through the book, yet she still acted consistently throughout despite this. Thinking about it now, doing a personality quiz for her might have been advantageous on my part, I would have been able to get to know her before a lot of the story was written.

The only time I had a character in mind before I wrote the story was when I saw a picture of a lady and she had such mischief in her eyes that I thought I wanted to write about her. So I did, and the adventures she went on in my book were unlike most of the other adventures I've ever written about.

Also, I get inspired by my dreams. I wake up after a really interesting dream, which detailed characters and the story and I write it down.

Names aren't as important to me, same as how the character looks. I guess this is because I come up with story first, then discover my characters through the story. I usually look around myself and make names up based on what's around me (window + brick = Windrick, cat + chair = Chatsi, etc.)

I definitely create the basis for my character, but I've had them get away from me more than once. For instance, I created two characters that were paired up together. It was a male and female, both heterosexual, but I didn't want to ship them just because they were a straight opposite gender team. Still, I started noticing things over the course of the story. By the time I finally sent it to some of my friends and family for critiques, my mother told me "Whether or not you meant to ship it, it's been shipped." Since looking over it, I can see what she meant. I'm also happy, because this means the relationship will work organically, as opposed to me forcing it.

Once a character gets in your head, you lose all control over them. XD
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Waterfall17 on Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:37 pm

Poetic-Jessie wrote:Similar to Waterfall17, I daydream and stories just come to me. Or I see a bus poster and think, "That's a cool picture, what would life be like if such and such happened?" Then my characters come as a part of that story and I get to know my characters through my story.

The most notable example of this was when I was writing about an assassin. I didn't understand her until 3/4 of the way through the book, yet she still acted consistently throughout despite this. Thinking about it now, doing a personality quiz for her might have been advantageous on my part, I would have been able to get to know her before a lot of the story was written.

The only time I had a character in mind before I wrote the story was when I saw a picture of a lady and she had such mischief in her eyes that I thought I wanted to write about her. So I did, and the adventures she went on in my book were unlike most of the other adventures I've ever written about.

Also, I get inspired by my dreams. I wake up after a really interesting dream, which detailed characters and the story and I write it down.

Names aren't as important to me, same as how the character looks. I guess this is because I come up with story first, then discover my characters through the story. I usually look around myself and make names up based on what's around me (window + brick = Windrick, cat + chair = Chatsi, etc.)

There have been few occasions where I've dreamed up (as opposed to daydreamed up) a story and characters, but there have been a couple ideas that came to me during a dream. That's neat ^_^. Since becoming pregnant I have had the wildest dreams--in one I decided in-dream that it'd make a fantastic story and I needed to remember it (I didn't, but honestly, I don't think it was THAT great anyway haha)--but I tend to forget them more quickly than I can write them down.

I like your naming process. That's pretty clever...
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Poetic-Jessie on Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:27 am

I definitely create the basis for my character, but I've had them get away from me more than once. For instance, I created two characters that were paired up together. It was a male and female, both heterosexual, but I didn't want to ship them just because they were a straight opposite gender team. Still, I started noticing things over the course of the story. By the time I finally sent it to some of my friends and family for critiques, my mother told me "Whether or not you meant to ship it, it's been shipped." Since looking over it, I can see what she meant. I'm also happy, because this means the relationship will work organically, as opposed to me forcing it.

Once a character gets in your head, you lose all control over them. XD

My characters get away from me every now and then too. eg. I decided that two characters that were about to get married wouldn't call each other 'husband' and 'wife', like I've seen in some fantasy books. Instead, these characters would agree that calling each other by their names was the best thing.

But what did they do? They convinced me using logic and their culture that he should call her 'wife.' I couldn't believe it, his reasoning was so sound that even I couldn't argue it and I created them!

Something else happened recently where I was writing a scene, it was just going to be a normal, peaceful scene about a dinner party. But instead, a knock came at the door, the usually placid dog went psycho, barking and growling at the door and the main character decided that she might need to defend herself.

It was actually the antagonist tracking her down, coming to recruit her to his side. That's not how I plotted it! She was supposed to go to him for the final showdown, but instead he came to her?! I guess he's a proactive antagonist, doing things behind the scenes that even I didn't know about.

(Should we make a thread about where characters/story surprised us? I imagine quite a few of us would have stories about this)
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Elowen-Astrid on Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:32 am

Poetic-Jessie wrote:(Should we make a thread about where characters/story surprised us? I imagine quite a few of us would have stories about this)

That sounds like a great idea. I haven't written much yet but I would love to read about these kind of instances.
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Poetic-Jessie on Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:47 am

There have been few occasions where I've dreamed up (as opposed to daydreamed up) a story and characters, but there have been a couple ideas that came to me during a dream. That's neat ^_^. Since becoming pregnant I have had the wildest dreams--in one I decided in-dream that it'd make a fantastic story and I needed to remember it (I didn't, but honestly, I don't think it was THAT great anyway haha)--but I tend to forget them more quickly than I can write them down.

I like your naming process. That's pretty clever...

That's really cool that you could decide in-dream that you'd make up a fantastic story, even if you didn't remember it, it's still cool. I've never been able to decide things like that in-dream. Some of my dreams tend to slip away from me, but then something will happen in the day and it'll remind me of the dream and they'll slowly come back to me. Then I hurriedly write them down in my dream journal.

Usually when I go to sleep, I think/hope I'll dream up something interesting that I can write a story about. Sometimes my brain complies, other times it just gives me dreams that can't really be adapted to a story.

My naming process started with changing gem stone names (instead of Labradorite, I used Labrite) but that got old pretty quickly. Then I searched for inspiration around me and started fusing items together, but that also got old after I created the third character name which started with 'C' in the same book (I have a coffee cup directly beside me for most of my writing). Now I use Scrivener's name generator and change/fuse names together (I think it was Taysar + Seth = Tayseth).
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Sieglinde on Sat Mar 26, 2016 7:10 am

I usually have their appearance, personality and (very often) ending in mind before I have a name. Hell, half my current cast runs on placeholder names. One of my leads doesn't have any name yet. I'm kinda thinking Cordelia but not sure. She's a warrior tank and a total cinnamon roll. Who will cheerfully murder you if you try to hurt her mage. (A lot of people try. They never learn.)
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Re: How do you create your characters?

Post by Sophie on Sun Mar 27, 2016 3:06 am

All of you are so proactive! I only create characters as I need them and never before... which is probably a TERRIBLE way of making characters. But for example, my established characters will go to a village, the village needs a population so I'll add in some random characters and attribute them some random personalities. Sometimes these characters become major and their backstories become important parts of the overall story - which is probably why my novel is so damn confusing and all over the place. I am easily distracted lol.

Poetic-Jessie wrote:Something else happened recently where I was writing a scene, it was just going to be a normal, peaceful scene about a dinner party. But instead, a knock came at the door, the usually placid dog went psycho, barking and growling at the door and the main character decided that she might need to defend herself.

It was actually the antagonist tracking her down, coming to recruit her to his side. That's not how I plotted it! She was supposed to go to him for the final showdown, but instead he came to her?! I guess he's a proactive antagonist, doing things behind the scenes that even I didn't know about.

Oh my gosh that is totally brilliant. I love those instances where the story takes a strange turn seemingly by itself!
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