Methods for Character Building

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A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what my methods were for creating my characters. Admittedly, the question caught me off guard. However, it’s an excellent question. I decided that perhaps I should explore this topic further and share it with you.

Methods for Character Building

There are several different methods for how to go about creating and developing your characters for your story. I’m not here to debate which is best or even to cover all of the various strategies and methods. However, I will share with you how I have gone about creating characters, become inspired with certain characters, or discovered the personality of others.

Inspiration

Seriously, sometimes inspiration just hits you. There are times when a character just molds in your head and you know almost know the character perfectly. You can visualize them in your head. You can hear their voice echo in your skull. You’ve thought about their history and what motivates them. Most of the time this occurs when you’ve already thought of a cool setting and have the tiny idea of a plot. A lot of main characters start out this way. But you still need to populate the world around this jolt of inspiration.

Character Profiles

Profiling characters is a great way to introduce yourself to a character. Profiling mainly covers the basic traits and physical makeup of a character. It’s great for visualization. While you can quickly compose a character’s physical features, you should not overlook some intangibles. Character backstory, family lineage, his greatest fears and desires, things such as these should be included to round out his personality.

Character profiles are good tools to develop main characters or minor characters that play a pivotal role in the narrative. These characters you should have some basic understanding of who they are before you begin to write. (That’s not to say who you think they are won’t change as you write). There are several profile templates online. Customize it to highlight what you want to develop in a character.

Discovery Write Them

Discovery writing a character is an easy method to establishing the idea of a character. It’s a great way to learn about your character as you write them. With this method you will find more about how the character interacts with others and reacts to certain situations. Of course, those interactions and reactions will form the core of his personality and influence his past history. You will start to answer questions to fill the gaps. Why does he act this way? What caused him to think like this? In a sense, it’s like working backwards from the profile method.

I’ve found this method interesting for side characters or characters that play a role but have little influence on the main outcome of the plot. Of course I’ve also discovered some side characters this way, who I’ve found so fun and interesting that they evolved into minor and major characters.

Place Them In A Situation

Ultimately, no matter how big or small you think the character is, you will need to place them in a situation.You don’t know your characters until you place them in a setting, given them a situation to deal with, and have given them a history. All of us are the product of our environment. A well developed character is no different. Until you at least have a vague understanding of what the character wants, what they need, what they fear, and what their past is, you don’t really know your character.

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