When I write a book or short story, creating a character is one of the most enticing parts of the writing process for me. It’s really exciting to be able to mold a character, figuring out how they would act in a certain situation, their likes and dislikes, and even creating a name. So how do I go about creating a character?
Well, as I’ve mentioned in a previous posts, write what you know works wells for me, but in terms of character development, I have to be extra careful. I can’t base a character completely off someone I know, because if I ever have a book published (which is the ultimate plan!), I don’t want to get sued. That would put a real damper on the feat of actually getting published. And, because I do like creating a character, having one of my book characters completely based on a real-life person would get boring. I want to be able to decide myself what they would do, rather than think “now what would <insert name of a person I know here> do?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I for sure have “borrowed” some qualities, interactions, and speech patterns from some people I know and from myself. It’s hard not to. Honestly, I sometimes do it without even trying, but I usually put my own spin on it.
Both of the main characters in both my books I’ve written are similar to me, but not entirely. There are some qualities about Carly and Sam that I’ve made very different, not because I wish I was that way, but just to make the character unique and add some additional depth. It would be pretty boring if I just wrote about myself all the time. I’m really not that interesting.
For my side characters, I think about what I want their purpose to be in relation to the main character, and I develop a set of character traits around that. For example, there is one character in my newest book who is there to degrade my main character’s love interest. So I’ve channeled my inner mean girl and based this character on traits I think this type of person would have and what they would look like.
Love interests are tricky. I don’t want to pull too much from real-life people and real-life interactions, because as I’ve said before, I’m a pretty personal person. So instead, I loosely base some of the characters on people I’ve might have met or what I imagine someone could be like. One love interest in the book I’m currently writing is 100% made up, which at times has proved challenging for me, but in a good way. I can’t fall back on thinking “now what would this person really do,” because in order to know that, I would have to create it myself!
Another fun but challenging part about creating a character is making up their name. My main character’s name always comes to me. I never seem to have any trouble with that. It’s my side characters and love interests that tend to be more cumbersome. I never want to name a character, especially the antagonist, after someone I know well, which means I have a laundry list of names that are completely off the table. Instead I do one of two things, create a name of someone I really don’t know, or google popular baby names from the year my character was born. I’m not a big fan of using obscure names; I would like to have one that is easy to remember and easy to spell.
I am really looking forward to starting my next book so I can start to develop a new set of characters. Who knows who I will create next?