The Writing Process: Creating Characters

Jan 14, 2011

I had planned on doing three posts on the writing process this week, but my Blogger dashboard crashed! It seems to be back, and hopefully won't crash again before the What's Your Process Blogfest.

So now, let's talk about characters. I always have to do some character sketching before I can really move on to writing my story. Of course, my characters ALWAYS change throughout the course of writing, but I have to have an idea of who they are before I begin.

This is the character sheet I use, created by Anne Olwin. It's one of the most complete ones I've ever found. I love that it contains various traits and characteristics.

However, I add several other things to this sheet. Sometimes, if I have a vague idea of the type of person my character is, I start off with the color code personality profile and the Myers-Briggs personality profile. Sometimes I do these a little later, if I'm not really sure yet who my character is going to be.

The last thing I add to the standard character sheet is the 3-2-5 questions. Who is this character? Who are they becoming? What stands in their way? How are we like them? How do we want to be like them? What are their flaws, handicaps, strengths, quirks, and motivations?

I do this one last because it's hard to do it without knowing a few things about my character first. Sometimes, I don't even complete it until after the first draft.

I keep all of this in one document labeled with the character's name. Then, I do a Google search to find a face that could be my character, and sometimes do a Polyvore wardrobe set. All of this is kept in a file within my story file labeled Characters.

And voila! It can sometimes take a while to do all this, but I've found if I at least do the protagonist and antagonist before I start, I can write a much stronger first draft.

So, my friends, how do you create your characters? When do you design them? Do they come to you fully formed, or do you have to drag information from them kicking and screaming? Share with us-- or sign up for the blogfest and share it then!

16 comments:

Julie Musil said...

Thanks for these great links. I do similar character sheets, which forces me to think some things through. I haven't gotten as organized as I'd like when it comes to typing it all in the computer. For now I keep all that information in one notebook. So far, so good!

Lindz said...

I love Polyvore, though I have never done a character-inspired spread with it. Since I design and sew costumes, I have an entire three-ring binder full of costume plates for my characters. In fact, I made one of those costume a year ago. Dork? I think yes!
When it comes to crafting personalities I use a sheet that is very similar to the one you use, and it helps me get the ball rolling. However, like you, my characters always change in some way I had not foreseen. I have found that some of my characters are more compliant than others, but its more gratifying to get the quiet ones to open up.

KarenG said...

I'm a pantser all the way. Everything is in my head and heart, and goes straight there to the paper. I never outline, or even think much about the characters, plot or any of it until I start writing. I'd like to be more organized with my next book.

Angie said...

My character creating process is somewhat more subconscious. I usually don't have a file on a character, though for the main characters I will fill out a character profile sheet that I have. I don't usually look at it again, though. I try to make sure they are real people by thinking about the qualities and personalities of people I know. People-watching is a great way for me to come up with characters.

The Golden Eagle said...

They usually come to me fully-formed, or when I begin writing down what I do know about the characters.

Faith E. Hough said...

I have a character file, too, and Myers-Briggs is one of the best almost-starting points I've found.
I enjoy journaling from my mc's pov as well, about past life, dreams, goals, ideals, etc--which also helps me get into their voice.
Thanks for sharing this!

M Pax said...

I have a rough idea of who they are when I begin. I don't nail down the details until the revision stage though as things about them often change about 1/3 through the 1st draft.

Melissa said...

I love hearing about how author's create their characters. It's all so fascinating!

Sonia said...

That is one of the most complete character profiles I've ever seen.

Medeia Sharif said...

Thanks for the links.

I do character journals. I write like the character for a few pages before I begin a wip.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks for the awesome links. I have a mental image of my characters. Some jump into my head fully formed. Others are dragged out screaming, kicking and also biting.

You have an award on my blog.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Shallee...for some strange reason when I click on your picture in my followers list I am not led to your blog.

Even when I click on your comments on my blog, its taking me ages to be linked to your blog. And when I try to comment on your blog, it takes me several attempts. Please could you check why this is happening.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I keep a 'bible' on my novels and each character get one or two pages. I start with basic physical description stuff and add other things as the story progresses.

Bekah said...

I usually have to drag some of it out LOL. Soemtimes it's there, but usually it takes a while to develp

Kari Marie said...

I don't start with a really clear idea of my characters. I have bullet points for the things I need to know, but for the most part they develop as my story moves forward.

Great post!

Margo Kelly said...

Thanks for the wonderful post! I have an award for you on my blog: www.margokelly.blogspot.com come stop by and pick it up! It will be available Monday morning.

 
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