Monday 21 August 2017

Writing Different Characters - The Creative Process


One thing you pick up quickly as a writer is that you'll be writing many many different characters. Whatever your genre, you're going to need to vary the characters, their descriptions and their back-stories. I'm gonna give you my tips on how to create and diversify your cast of characters. Diversify is a big thing too because we're not just talking about their physical looks, but also their culture, their ethnicity, their religion, their sexuality and their disabled status. It all sounds pretty simple and it really is, but it's something that I've learned along the way and wanted to pass that on to you guys. So here we go.

I mean look outside your window and watch people walk by. No two people are generally the same. That can also apply to characters in your novel. While there might be a default you go to when thinking up a new person, but you need to remember that there should always be some diversity. I don't just mean in skin colour and all the rest, but while you may have one character with long black hair and brown eyes, another character with long black hair and brown eyes is still going to have some marked differences. Whether that's in their build or the shape of their faces, there are always going to be differences. And that's a good thing.

I know that it's a pretty hot button topic right now in the writing world. There's those who fall into the camp of they'll write what they want and that's final and then there's those, like me, who agree that white, cis, abled and straight are not the default. In my first few novels, it wasn't something I thought about too much. That's down to my own white privilege. While I did have some disabled characters, I didn't have many LGBTQ, or characters of colour. A lot of the argument is that why should it matter? Those in the no camp think that because the story isn't about being gay/black/disabled/trans etc, that it doesn't matter. They're wrong. Go back to the first point. Look out of your window and you will see so many different people walk past. Go further than that and look around at your friend group and beyond. There are so many different people in that out of the seven billion in the world, no two are exactly the same. Your story doesn't have to be about being gay/trans/black/disabled etc. for it to be possible for your characters to be any of those things. It's something I'm learning to do myself, but I think it's something every author should be aware of.


I don't know about you, but I find it easier to start with the name. Once I know what my character is going to be called then I can go from there and work out what they look like, how they act, what their end goal is. It all starts with a name. I know some writers look down on using name sites and all the rest, and if you don't need to that's great, but that doesn't mean that if you do use them, that you're less of a writer. I've been inspired for names in many different ways. I've called people and things various weird names and some of them were simply because that was what was in my eye-line at the time. But when it comes to choosing the name, you want it to fit the character. So don't be ashamed or afraid of having to research or look into what name means what.

Now I don't generally write down what kind of personality a character has. I'm very much a hybrid in planning and that goes for creating characters too. I did a video (here) and a blog post (here) on being a hybrid. That said, I do know that it's not just about that initial creation and moving further into writing these characters. You don't want to have several characters who all have the same personality. While it's a good thing if they have stuff in common, they're going to approach things differently. I'm not a big personality person in that I don't know the Myers-Briggs type for every character (or even myself!) but when you're writing you'll find that it becomes clear what kind of personality your character will have. Same goes for likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and so on.

And finally, #5 - THEY NEED A END GOAL
Again this can be something you plan, or it can be something you don't work out until you're writing. I've done both and it's really just about what works for you. Whichever path you choose you need to know how it's going to play out at some point. If you want them to be a bad guy, then you need to know that. If you want them to be kinda bad, but turn away from it, again, you need to know that. I had one character who started out good but the more I wrote them, the clearer it became that they weren't. So when writing and creating characters, be aware that at some point, they're gonna need a purpose, otherwise what are they there for?

Building characters is something that every writer will do, and you'll do it a lot. It's not just the people that make up your writing, but it's the little things as well. While I'm more of a bare bones writer, that doesn't mean that you need to be as well. If you find that writing out a character profile works for you, then go ahead and do it. You have to find what helps you best and enables you to be the best writer you can be.

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