Writing Tips

Creating Characters

Hello Bookworms!

There’s only one more week until we all stuff our bellies with turkey and dinner rolls, then fall asleep in front of the couch, watching football, only to be awoken at one a.m to rush to Target in search of Christmas presents. Please show me something more disgustingly American.

While I have my quibbles with Thanksgiving, it is an amazing holiday if you want to meet a cast of zany characters.

Your drunk Uncle who will tell the story of his college football glory days at least three times? What about a quiet cousin who has a notebook labeled, “Hidden Agenda”. Or your deaf grandmother who wont hear a word the family says the entire time, but smiles anyway, happy to see her kids home again.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to talk about establishing believable and compelling characters, because we all come from diverse and interesting families. Creating characters is one of my favorite parts of the brainstorming process. I love thinking of all their quirks, favorites, and physical characteristics. Even the harder parts are fun: like creating their weaknesses and losses.

So lets dig in!

There’s lots of different advice out there on what exactly should go into creating a character. I have heard arguments for taking a personality test as the character. Draw the character. Free write a scene with a character and see what they do. But one professor has a list that I can stand by.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Wants

Obstacles

These basic starting blocks will launch your character profiling into new heights. So here is my process with a character I’m creating, right now!

Let’s name the Character Bryan. Hi Bryan.

Bryan’s strengths: I’m going to make Bryan a 27 year old middle school, history teacher. So he’s good at:

  • Teaching/advising
  • Good with kids
  • Creative
  • History Buff
  • Works well in a team

Bryan’s Weaknesses: Maybe Bryan is having trouble in his personal life. So he’s

  • A hopeless romantic
  • Financially clueless
  • Accident Prone

Thinking of those weaknesses makes me feel like he needs one more thing going for him. He can’t be loveless, penniless, and hurt all the time. What if Bryan can cook really well?? I like that idea, so let’s add it to the strengths.

Now, Bryan’s Wants: Knowing what we do about his strengths and weaknesses, we can tailor his wants to fit in with the parts of his personality we have already gathered.

  • Wants to take on more responsibility at work.
    • Maybe start coaching on the side or advise a club
  • Wants to meet someone because his dating life is beyond average
  • Wants to get a better apartment

Finally, time to think of what Bryan will need to overcome in order to achieve his wants. (Or not achieve his wants, remember your characters don’t have to change, they just have to have the opportunity for change. Nothing is more relatable or frustrating than a character who chooses not to change).

  • Bryan will have to overcome a principal who doesn’t like him at school if he wants more responsibility.
  • Bryan is opposed to dating apps, so he needs to go out more if he wants to meet someone. He is a little socially awkward, so going out isn’t going to be easy.
  • Bryan has no savings plan, so saving the money for a new apartment will mean he needs to take the time to create a budget (which he’s not good at).

So all together: let’s look at the character of Bryan that we have created.

Bryan is a fairly well rounded character that this point, and I am already imagining the different routes this story could take. Maybe he falls in love with the principal throughout their battle to allow him more responsibility. Maybe he fails to fall in love, but starts up a Geography Bee program at his school. Maybe when trying to save more money, Bryan comes up with a creative solution that allows him to use his love of history and make money on the side for a new apartment.

The possibilities are endless.

Till next week Bookworms. xx

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