Creating Characters – Part 2

by juliusmsanz

Ok, let’s continue talking about character creation and it’s possible pitfalls.

Something happened to me once: when I was writing a story, I was writing about a character and making him do things and suddenly I realized that it wasn’t supposed to go that way. Why did this happen?

Simply because I didn’t follow my notes and tried to make him something he’s not.

It’s important to follow your notes as you are trying to write about a character, if you don’t then by the end of the story you might just end up with someone completely different. That might be a good thing in some cases, but only if done right and you don’t end up confusing your readers.

Say you are writing about a coward but have him actively participate in a fight and then after the fight think cowardly again. How on earth does that make any sense? Only if the character has a double personality or something along those lines, but how often do we see that? If the character is a pacifist, but he’s forced to fight, then it might be okay, although I think I’ve seen that played out somewhere.

That doesn’t mean you can’t let your character evolve and be himself/herself, but notice the word evolve and try to be consistent. The character won’t always follow your instructions and can change in unexpected ways, but you have to give reasons for these changes somewhere in your story. Remember that somebody who isn’t you might read your story and needs to know what the hell is going on. You need to make adjustments so that the reader may still connect with and feel your character.

Yes, the character may be a badass, may be a nutcase, he/she may be as cool as you write it, but that doesn’t mean the readers will care. And if they don’t care then you don’t have that badass character you thought you did.

Now this branches out to some different directions and I won’t cover them all in this post, but let’s try to at least do one.

First of all your character needs a reason to be in the story. This is all about being efficient and making sure that everything you do moves the story forward. The story may be about your character, it may be about other characters, it may have little to do with characters. So if you put something in the story it needs a reason to be there. Otherwise you’re just trying to show off without a reason to.

Why is your character there? What is the purpose of the character? Does that character help or hinder?

Obviously that is something to consider, but there’s more: introducing your character is key. You may have him destroying enemies, you may have him take a sip of his coffee, it doesn’t matter. When you introduce that character you have to make an impression.

As much as I don’t like it the truth is this: the first impressions do matter. And let me give you an example on how it’s true at least for me: Madame Bovary. I just cannot get past the first 50 pages or so of that book. Why? Because Charles Bovary looks absolutely silly to me, he looks so frail and dumb and useless and a pushover. I may be wrong thinking this of the character, but try as I might I just cannot get past it. And because of that four times I’ve tried and four times I failed to advance more into the story.

That is all for now, part 3 will come tomorrow.

Have a nice day!