I was wondering if you talk a little bit about how you create characters for your book. I’ve got an awesome idea for a story, but I’m having a hard time creating characters to go along with it. Do you have any advice?
In my personal opinion, you’re doing this backward. You’ve got a great story, but no characters. I don’t believe that’s the correct way of going about this. I’m sure that many of my readers will disagree with me on this one, but I think that the best way write a story is to create a set of characters first, then create the story around them.
For me, I have a library of characters written out that I have not yet used. Actually, many of the characters for some of my more recent books have come from that library. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you have to create characters for specific plot devices in the story, but largely, it may be better for your main characters to be an independent creation.
I have characters that are elves, half-elves, dragonkin (half-dragons), Dragons that have the ability to appear in human form, dwarves, modern humans, medieval and prehistoric humans, fantasy humans, humans from other planets that evolved differently from ones on this planet, and several different vaguely-written backstories. They are all just anxiously awaiting their chance to take center stage.
When the time comes and I come up with a new story, I go back to that library and pick out the characters that I think best fit the story. Then I adapt their backstory to the world rules I established and go from there.
Think about it for a second. In life, do you think people are pre-written for an experience or do they simply adapt as they are put through it? There’s no wrong answer here, I just tend to believe the latter.
So I would say that the best thing for you to do would be to put the idea for your story on the back burner and just think about interesting people that you know in your life. Think about stories that have peaked your interest in the past and create characters based on those. Create their backstories, their races, and their appearances. Once you have around 10+ characters, think about the story you want to write. Then go back and pick out 2-3 characters that you think would fit.
Take a blank word document and fill in the following;
What’s this character’s name?
What’s their gender?
What’s their race/species?
Where do they come from?
Describe their physical appearance.
Describe their personality.
Describe their backstory.
Both the plot and the story can be adapted so that they suit each other as you go through, so don’t worry about that.
So that’s generally how I do things, but let’s open this up to my readers and keep the conversation going. I’d love to hear about how other people create characters for their stories. Do they write the story first and then the characters? Is it the other way around? Do you just write the characters as you’re writing the story?
Let me know in the comments!
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!
Sounds about right to me. The plot happens, the characters affect the plot based on their actions (said actions based on their personality, worldview, and history), the new events then affect the characters…it’s a circular action. Starting with the plot isn’t bad so long as you’re using new characters but their motivations and actions have to agree and make sense to what’s happening in the world around them.