Character Building

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So you have a main character and all the supporting players all planned out in your head and ready to put down on paper. That is great but what does that entail? So most novels the story will revolve around the characters and many readers need a character that they can relate and latch on to so that they can get into the story. Sure the narrative is important and it right up there with the character development but for many writers they go hand in hand.

For some of the process I can take you through my thoughts on building and developing a character. First, I’d usually have a base character molded out in my mind. Gender, walk in life and or their motivations of being. That said my main group of characters lately are both male and female, mostly nobility and typically trying to fight some sort of immortal evil being or their mortal conduit. This is the bare roots of the building process for me. After that the story starts to intertwine with the character. Think of it like a rpg video game. The JRPGs from the 1990’s were amazing at this process. You have a basic character that develops based on the story. Later this model was adapted to player decisions, such as in Fable or Mass Effect. This sort of model can be taken into writing novels or short stories. What you have is a character that you have minimal details and then as your start planning out or writing out the story, that character begins to mature into something closer to the final character. Their final form.

So what could do that? Here is were the paths might deviate because anything could happen. I know that many writers use conflict or character deaths to achieve the maturity of their characters. Both are great examples of the possible ways to help develop a major character. This also works well for both heroes and villains. In fact, villains might be better suited in this life events just because of the negative emotions that are associated with the event. What happens to a character in order to develop them is very similar to what might happen to us in real life. So adding a life altering event into your story might be the thing that your character needs to kick their maturing into high gear. We all go through events that shape us into who we are. That’s life.

How about interactions with other characters? That is were you could have some fun. Dialogue is helpful in determining the attitudes and the personality of a main character. Are they stoic or are they fast talkers? Charismatic charmers or lone wolf? Maybe a bit of both. Some characters are loners on the outside but then open up to one other character and that other character alone. Maybe that’s the catalyst for their life altering change. Either way the dynamics between characters speaks a lot to their development. The characters will build up based on those around them and their interactions. I’ve written many characters that laugh and joke with another character but then give the silent treatment to another because their development was based on a dislike. It is all there in the story! You characters should, to a limited point, be built around their world and the story you are building, and vice versa.

I often wonder if people born in other areas of the world, such as high in the Andes, have the same fears as I do, such as heights. Maybe a character that has to cross a wooden rope bridge on a regular basis would not be afraid of heights like I would be. So maybe that is part of the story and the person’s personality. Growing up near water and maybe they are more inclined to swim or be a sailor. All this goes into the character building. Certainly, it does not have to be an absolute but it helps to establish a sense of personality. It could also play into their role within the community. Maybe they are fishing for a living when they find a magic pearl. It could happen.

So from this writer, I’d say start with a broad stroke off a character and then mold him or her based on the setting around the character, the events and the interactions they come across. Let’s face it, we are not the same person at twenty that we are at eighty. In those sixty years we should have done some sort of living. The same holds true for characters that we are creating. They should live a life that they could look back on and be proud of.

For my thoughts on world building be sure to check out my YouTube video: World Building Basics

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