Hello, beautiful soul! Thank you for visiting.
Whether you're a writer or not, character development is a very interesting topic I think everyone should read up on. Creating fictional characters is a little more difficult than one might think. You have to create a realistic person, one who is relatable on many levels. Not only does the character have to be realistic, but their situations do, too. I'm hoping that I can bring a little more insight to the world of character building through this article. And, who knows, maybe you'll be inspired to create a character of your own!
If you think about it, almost every single one of us has created a character before. I'm pretty sure most of us, if not all, had an imaginary friend growing up. When I was a kid, my imaginary friend was Kaylee Good Girl. I know, very original.
I've been creating characters since I was old enough to imagine. Whether it be characters in the plays my siblings and I performed for our parents or horribly written short stories or "books," creating fictional people has always been something I couldn't stop doing. That's how I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Anyway, my point is, we have all created a character one way or another.
Kaylee Good Girl was anything but good. In fact, I blamed her when my toys weren't put away and claimed she was bad. As to why I gave her the name Kaylee Good Girl, I have no idea and I'm not sure I ever will. But that's the beauty of imaginary friends, right? It doesn't have to make sense.
In my Authors Explained Through Memes article, I shared this quote:
Every character is pretty much an imaginary friend. Even at the age of twenty-three, I have quite a few imaginary friends. It sounds weirder than it is. But that's the life of a writer, I guess.
In this article, I plan to share what I do to develop a character, including new tactics I'm trying, and some tips I have learned from other writers. If you're a fellow writer, I hope this is helpful for you. If you're not, well, enjoy the process. This may be able to help you understand your writer friends a little more.
1. Start a Bullet Journal
This is something I recently started doing that has actually been pretty helpful in developing my story. When it comes to remembering last names or describing physical features, it can sometimes be hard to keep track. Especially when you have many characters.
In your bullet journal, dedicate a few pages to your characters. Make sure you have every major and minor character accounted for. Create bullets for specific details, such as their birthday, their height, age, hair color, eye color, grade, etc. Do they have any birthmarks? What are the shapes of their eyes? Are they the shortest or tallest in their friend group? Or are they just average height? While this information might seem a little basic, it is important for the story.
As an example, I am the shortest person in my family (except for my dog, but he doesn't count). Let's imagine I am creating a scenario where I see a spider in my living room. I'm sitting in the spacious room with my parents and siblings. I am terrified of spiders. So much so that I call them demonic spawns of Satan (because that's what they are -- you can't change my mind). So, imagine the spider is crawling up the wall. Being me, I will say, "I'm the shortest, so I can't kill the spider. Someone else has to." I am using my height to create a scenario which ultimately describes my personality in some way, shape, or form.
This may have been a lame example, but I think you get the point. Here is what my bullet journal looks like for my characters so far:
2. Make a Character Document/Outline
I got this idea from a writer I follow on Instagram. She created a Google document where she named her characters and put in basic information just like what is mentioned above. However, this one is a little different. In this character document, you can (and possibly should) answer questions about the characters in question.
As an example, a question might be "what are your character's political views?" or "what is the worst thing that could happen to your character that turns out to be the best?" These questions may be a little more difficult than figuring out their appearance and age, but it helps in developing their personality.
In high school during a theater arts course, I had an assignment to create a scene of some sort. One of the first things we had to do is create the characters. My teacher had us write down some questions that focused on their favorite color, favorite food, what their friend group(s) were like, and what emotion they felt the most. This is something I still try to practice to this day. When answering these questions, try not to answer as yourself, but as the character. Do they feel fear the most? Anger? Joy? Is their favorite color yellow? Or why do they hate the color yellow? Maybe even create a back story.
Felicity hated yellow because it reminded her of the time she was bit by a dog wearing a yellow sweater. She is overcome with fear whenever she sees a dog.
Here is a link to an outline I'm using for my current work:
3. Create a Playlist
I love creating playlists. Not only are they fun, but they're also forms of written stories. They have the power to inspire. Choose songs that best describe the character when they're happy, mad, angry, sad, etc. Figure out if they have the same music style as you or not. What kind of music are they into? Strictly country, or a variety of genres? How do they feel about rap? Choose songs for the characters.
In my current work, Carter, one of the main characters, is obsessed with older music. When he first meets Felicity, he is shamelessly singing "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys. He loves a variety of music and bands. But he's kind of obsessed with bands like the Backstreet Boys purely for their vibes. Don't ask why. It just kind of happened.
Another tip I received back in high school is to allow the characters to tell the story. It's their story. This will become easier once you figure out who these characters really are. What are their past traumas? What songs helped them through difficult times? Do they hate to hear people sing? Be creative with it.
That's about all I have for you, friend! I hope this article was helpful to you in some way. If you're an aspiring author, let me know how you create characters in the comments. Let's start a conversation!
And, just for fun, did you have an imaginary friend growing up? What were they like? What do you think they would be like today?
Thank you for checking out today's article! Until next time!
Next article: How To: World-building