I’m trying to come up with characters for my book. I was hoping you could maybe provide a little insight into how you came up with yours. I specifically liked Xaphine, could you use her as an example?
General Xaphine seems to be a recurrent theme in character discussions… perhaps I should write her into another story.
You may be disappointed on this one, given that her development wasn’t a natural flow like you hear about people taking the personality of someone they met, or someone they like/admire, and create a character around that. General Xaphine didn’t start out that way.
Let me go back in time a little ways to when I was in college. Back then, I was writing stories for my buddies who were playing RPG games, including a Star Wars game. It was at this point that I came up with an awesome nemesis; Darth Malys.
I forget the name of whom I modeled her after, but that’s unimportant at the moment. This character was a fairly young Dark Jedi, born of the force, influenced by the dark side, and possessing powers that are as out of her control as her own emotions. Despite that, she’s a capable warrior and effective leader. She nearly brought the galaxy to its knees by bringing together the imperial remnant and reactivating the old droid factories. Her one weakness was that she was unable to kill the boy she grew up with. No matter how far down the dark path she went, something inside of her refused to allow her to do it.
I was encouraged to write an actual story around her by my friends and that’s where the fan fiction: Star Wars: The Face of Evil.
(And in case you’re wondering, no I don’t have a copy I can post. My last copy was lost years ago.)
Though badly flawed and put further and further away from canon as new books… and now the new movie came out.
Obviously, my story was never going to get published. I held no illusions about that. So I let the story fall to the back burner and moved onto Divinity and Magnifica. As I was working on getting Divinity published, I was asked about writing a sequel to the book. It was at this point that I started formulating a new story. I created new characters, but didn’t really have a good premise. At this point, I went back to The Face of Evil and rewrote it, replacing the Republic with the Republic of Florence, the Imperial Remnant with the Holy Roman Empire, Jedi with angels, and Sith with demons.
Okay… so now I had essentially transformed The Face of Evil into Damnation… however Darth Malys didn’t fit the bill as the chief antagonist. My main villain in this case was going to be a fallen angel who worked as Lucifer’s general during the Celestial Wars. Her seizing power, being a newcomer to a scene that had existed for eons didn’t make sense.
So I took the parts of the character that did work; her viciousness, her fighting abilities, her attitude, and her tactical brilliance, and started working on a new character. I really wanted this character to be a demon that people would recognize, given how important she was going to be. So I looked for demons with feminine or androgynous names that were well-known. That’s when I came across ‘Xaphan’ from the Dictionnaire Infernal. Xaphan, a male per that story, was an inventive demon who orchestrated setting fire to Heaven. Perfect!
So I took Xaphan’s back story and name and tweaked them. Instead of setting fire to all of Heaven, Xaphan simply set fire to the Celestial Temple where the Choirs of Angels congregated. It was more of a symbolic gesture in the declaration of revolution by Lucifer and his legions of angels. Against Lucifer’s wishes, she warned the inhabitants of the attack, giving them just enough time to get out. She viewed the spilling of angel blood as an unforgivable waste.
After her success, she was to take command of Lucifer’s forces and lead them in a war that would stalemate for an uncountable amount of time. So now I had a name, a back story, and MOST of her personality. I then added a very strict code of honor to her as a warrior as well. Now I had my character!
So that’s where the ground work of this character came up. She was essentially a combination of another character I created, as well as some legend and folklore. The result was General Xaphan/Xaphine Lorenzi. Granted her appearance changes over time:
Then later, I met a very talented model who matched the look I was going for,
and she became the model and template for the character;
So that’s how I came up with General Xaphan, and she remains my favorite character to this very day:
So sometimes it comes right down to combining various ideas and previously created characters to create the final product. The best advice I could give you is simple. Create your character. Build them up from the ground, then expose them to different situations in your writing. Bend them, mold them… heck, torture them. Yes, I’m advocating torturing your character, especially if you’re going to expose them to tense situations later on. Get a feel for them and see how they’ll hold up, if they’ll hold up, and if they’re the right character to take on a lead. If not, then keep that character for later or relegate them to a back roll and its back to the drawing board, if so, then keep up with the development.
Anyway, I hope this helps.
Readers, how do you create characters, what draws you to a character vs. another? What attributes do you feel make a strong character? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
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Catch you on the flip side!
I don’t usually create my characters. Not consciously. Most often, my characters come to me and reveal themselves over time. They’re a varied bunch, and I don’t know all of them equally well, but that’s OK. I don’t need to. Of course, I do know my main characters really well. They are, in a sense, my best friends.
Let’s take Bel, e.g. I knew I would need a disabled woman to be my female main character. It didn’t take long for Bel to show up in her wheelchair, and I knew immediately she was the woman I needed. Strong, independent, and capable. She lived alone, with no help – not even a cleaner – was a professional musician, and nobody in their right mind would ever think to pity her. Perfect.
The chair? “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll make you forget about that soon enough. It’s just my legs that don’t work.”