Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Building Character

I finished my Camp NaNo story on Saturday. Well, technically Sunday at 1am, but whatever. It's done. I wouldn't call it "successful" but it also wasn't a total loss. If nothing else, I learned a lot about the things I still need to improve on.

So where do we go next?

The next thing I'll probably work on is the in-depth character creation I mentioned last time. Essentially, my characters tend to be flat and lacking a little thing called personality. I always see these questionnaires for character creation, and I never manage to fill the whole thing out. So I'm going to try. I'm going to figure out everything about a character, until they're damn near a real person.

Then the question becomes: What kind of character should I create?

The obvious first choice for a character is the hero. They're the main character. We're paying the most attention to them. But then I thought, maybe I should create a villain. I don't know that I've ever had a good, strong, well-developed villain. And I should. A hero is only as good as his villain. And a villain is, after all, the hero of their own story. They have their reasons for what they're doing, and it's probably not "for the evulz."

I need a vague sort of setting to put this character in, just because parts of their history and personality are going to be influenced by the world they live in. Is this a modern story? Or a high fantasy with elves and shit? Or some kind of galactic space thing?

The trick is going to be creating a good, solid character with motivations and whatnot that the reader won't be rooting for. Sure, there are some villains that you kind of want to win, but I don't know if I'm prepared for that.

The overall plan here is to create a villain, and a hero, and then a plot for them to live in. I don't know how long this is going to take. It seems like a big project that would take months, but if I actually sit down and get my shit together, it could take a lot less.

It's just that creating all of this of nothing is really intimidating. Like, how am I supposed to know what they like on their pizza and who their favorite band is? Do they have any idiosyncrasies? What distinguishing features do they have? How much do they weigh? Is it just me or does trying to add all of these details make them seem more fake, rather than more real? Does that make sense?

And I'm not trying to get out of it, I swear. I just… get really uncomfortable around physical descriptions. I know that’s weird. And it might be because I've read some really shitty works where characters are way over described, so now I cringe when they're described at all. But I need to man up, as it were, and start describing people, I know. It's just so… *shudder*

So, I always find that the hardest part of a character is the name. They have to have the perfect name, damn it! With that in mind, I think I should start with a name, and create a character from there. Names have personality, so hopefully that will give me a place to start.

My first task is then, pick a name, and pick a setting. Technically that's two tasks, but they kind of go together. Certain names go with certain settings. You don’t have a wood elf named Steve. Or do you…?

I'll see you Friday, when we jump full force into this nonsense.


  1. Congrats on finishing!

    I've never done one of those character sheets either. Part of me thinks it would be helpful to establish a character's POV and history... and part of me feels that relevant history/aspects of a character comes into play as the story demands.

    I'm interested in seeing your take on this and if you find it productive.

    Character names are the bane of my writing existence. That is why all of my main protagonists are named "Taggy McProtag".

    1. I once had a character who spent most of the planning stage known as Baddy McBadFace. Why are placeholder names always Scottish?

    2. Even with a terrible name, something about making it Scottish implies oodles of personality.

      John Smith = Vanilla Nobody

      Jane Doe = Female Blank Slate

      Nobby McNobody = Could save the world and then go out for pints. Better yet, would rather save the world after a few pints.

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