Thursday, February 11, 2016

Creating memorable characters

As a writer, I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking of fictional characters as 'real people'. If anything, doing so just makes them more life-like and memorable. Now that I'm starting work on a new series and getting to know the characters who will perform in the novel that I'm busily mapping out, I'm trying to figure out which qualities set them apart and what makes them tick. Doing so ahead of time is crucial, for the simple reason that you cannot know how a character will react in certain situations unless you understand who they are as people. So, as I work through the plot and try to figure out what my character is going to do next or how they'll respond to certain situations, I always ask myself, why? In fact, why, is probably the most important question a writer can ask themself. In other words, what is your character's motivation? What's driving them? Are they self-conscious and shy because they were picked on in childhood? Do they have attachment issues because someone they loved once left them? Do they love a particular story because it's what their mother used to read to them at bedtime?
I have often been told by readers that my characters tend to be fun and quirky. That's because I love adding flaws and oddities to their personalities - something that will make them just a little different and, in turn, more interesting. In my Secrets At Thorncliff Manor series, Thorncliff Manor was run by the incomparable Lady Duncaster who was often seen wearing gowns that were fashionable in her youth. She loved eating cake for breakfast and recalled her late husband as the greatest love of her life. As a result, she always hoped that others would find a similar love for themselves, which makes this lady something of a love-match advocate.
And then there's Lady Sarah (Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires) who has a pet hamster named Snowball. Why? Because she's able to carry him with her in her pocket, keep him hidden from her awful stepmother (showing off a bit of rebelliousness) and allows readers to see, through her interaction with Snowball, the depth of Sarah's kindness.
Sometimes certain character attributes will be revealed to me after I start writing because I suddenly realize that they should obviously be an only child instead of having siblings or there needs to be more drama in their past to propel them forward in the present.
As a guide however, I'm adding my character profile sheet below. I fill this out for both the hero and the heroine before I start writing. Once complete, I include a briefer outline for the supporting characters who also need to have motivation. And remember, the key to writing a compelling villain, is to remember that he/she is the hero of their own story.

Character name: 
1.      Outline a short history of his (or her) life.
·        Place & Date of birth/neighborhood type:
·        Parents: 
·        Siblings:
·        Schooling: 
·        Childhood friends:
·        Teenage friends: 
·        Adult friends: 
·        Doesn’t get along with:
·        Job: 
·        Favorite food: 
·        Hobby: 
·        Favorite color:
·        Perfect vacation: 
·        Aspires to:
·        Favorite authors: 
·        Most treasured possession:
·        Favorite school subject:  
·        Relationship to father: 
·        Relationship to mother: 
·        Relationship to siblings:
·        Childhood:
·        Adolescence:
·        Adulthood:
·        Best childhood memory:
·        Best recent memory:
·        Major emotional events:
·        Important personality traits:
·        Medical history:
·        Secret:
·        Biggest Fear: 

Additionally, I do tend to create a private Pinterest board for book development. On here I will typically post pictures of real people who look like the characters I have in mind since this helps solidify their appearance. I'll also include images of clothes that I think they would wear, houses where they would live along with pictures of potential pets. Another tip is to base your characters on real historical characters, because sometimes researching a Captain who actually went to war and fought for England, might lead to a wealth of information.

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