People are fascinating their lives are a complex web of stories constantly rewriting themselves according to beliefs, choices and experiences.
I love listening to people talk recounting a funny thing that happened on the way to the grocery store or an amazing life changing event it’s all interesting to me. I’ll observe the unique way someone talks, their mannerisms, habits, and personality. There’s no end to the uniqueness of a person.
How do we show all of that on paper and make an amazing memorable character for a film, web-series, comic book or novel?
You can use character generators as a starting point but I’d recommend being very creative with it as opposed to just copying the description as is.
Mix it up and reinterpret the description for example this is a character generated from Archetype’s Character Generator:Here’s a short example of my brainstorm around this generated character:
“Alright, let’s look up ‘religiosity’ to see how we can interpret that. She doesn’t have to have a specific religion maybe just her own rituals, moral code and maybe carry something that’s deeply symbolic for her. Her weakness is a sports addiction.. hmm.. What if she takes part in sports betting? What sport? Let’s pick one at random like chess boxing! Prized possession is a copy of Nostradamus’ predictions. What if that’s part of her religiosity? That’s a little obvious.. How can we make this more unique? What if she interprets the predictions in a way that helps her place her bets? Or it’s an old hardcover that was converted into a hollow book to hide secret gambling information? The last idea sounds kind of fun I’ll go with that one.” Now the story can begin to unfold around the book, her beliefs and her gambling problems. I can go back change things around and combine it with other ideas.
It’s important to really get inside the head of your characters and breathe some life into them.
Sometimes I like to freewrite a page or so from a character’s journal. If you’ve never kept a journal it’s essentially a place to go over personal musings, philosophies, rants, and keeping track of day to day activities. Have your character take some time out and muse about their lives.
Create an interview with that character using questions that would help you examine their personality, motivations and life history. Also take a look at real interview questions and watch some talk shows and imagine how your characters would answer. Think about how their body language, posture, and habits would show.
Have fun with it!
If you feel like your character is still too flat, cliche or somethings missing take a break go out for a bit watch some real life people then come back to the writer’s desk.
Here are some resources for more character related inspiration..
- This Is a Towel: Character Questionnaires
- F*!$ Yeah, Character Development
- Write World’s Tools for Characters
- The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Psychology
- Gallery of Archetypes from Caroline Myss
- Joss Whedon’s Top 10 Writing Tips