Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Creating Characters

Every plot needs a good character to move the story along. But how do writers create characters? Well, I don't know about other writers, but my style is more plot oriented. I come up with a plot to the story, and then I create a character afterwards to make that plot move along.

For example, if your plot has to deal with killing monsters and vampires, then a kick ass slayer type of character is what you need.
If your plot is about a war of wizards, then maybe an ordinary kid who later becomes a powerful wizard will be the right character for your book.

!Alert! : Creating characters just to move a plot along can make your characters really passive. Readers want to read about a character that takes an active role in the story. So you must develop your characters until they can move around on their own, even if you take the plot away. (This is one of my weak points as a writer. My characters tend to be on the passive side. But I'm learning).

Another way to create characters is to just use a stereotype. There is nothing wrong with using stereotypes in a story. I know that it's a cliche, but some authors do it all the time, especially if they have to write about tons of characters.

For example, a few of JK Rowling's characters in her series, "Harry Potter", are stereotypes. Like, the gentle giant, the wise old man, the comic relief, the friend who would betray, etc... Those types of characters could be found in many other books.
However, I'm not saying that Rowling's characters are just stereotypes. They might have started out that way, but since Rowling is a master at character development, her characters have grown out of the old cliches and become so much more. So a good starting point in creating characters are by using stereotypes.

These are the two methods that I use to create characters. The characters in my novels were created after I made my plot. And some of my characters are just stereotypes, like the goth, the jock, the spoiled rich girl, the comic book geek, etc... (this sounds like the setting of my story is in a high school, but it's not). However, my characters have evolved over the months and years since I first thought of them. And I think that they're great characters, except for the one that I'm going to kill.

So happy writing to all you writers out there,
John Smith

P.S. - After awhile, the characters kind of come to life on their own. Their personality starts to evolve and break out of the stereotype, little by little. But that's okay. Sometimes this could make your character more real and dynamic. So don't try to restrain and force them into the image in your head. You'll be fighting a losing battle.


  1. I've always done the same thing. Plot first, characters later. I end up frustrated because my characters have little or no depth.

    Great post!

  2. I think creating characters is my favorite part of writing. They become so real to me!

  3. Hey, John, I'm a new follower!

    Also, awesome post! I think I try to keep a balance between characters and plot. I usually come up with a plot idea and then the characters make themselves up. They give each other names and their personalities are seen through their actions and dialog with one another.

    Then, when I've got the first chapter down, the characters take the wheel and start typing for themselves practically. They find out that they aren't perfect, they are flawed. They find out that they can't defeat some obstacles that come in their way, but they still face their fears and fight.

    To make great characters, those that are memorable in the reader's mind, is my dream and I'm trying my best.

    I wish you luck in your characters and remember that we can always improve. So, write on!

  4. I design characters first and then the plot, just so I don't try to force characters into a mold they don't fit.

  5. Hi John,
    We have 2 things in common: the book shelves in the background and your latest post. I, too, wrote a post about characterization (a couple of months ago). ;)
    I hope your work-in-progress becomes a book.

  6. Interesting post. So many other blog posts on this topic say to avoid stereotypes, which makes this post a little different. However, I don't mind using stereotypes sometimes because they can be realistic as long as not overdone. Mixing stereotype with unusual factors is a good way to go in my mind. For my novels I might come up with a scene or storyline but the real development and novel comes from the character. They are what gets developed first even if the idea wasn't from the character. I just can't do the whole story first and then find a character to fit it, but my BF usually goes that route.

  7. Hi, found your blog on Follow Friday. Well written post, and very nice site. I create the plot but also let the characters guide their own way through the novel as well (create their own solutions, etc...) They literally come to life and I just sit back and watch. Good luck on your work, it sounds very interesting.

  8. Wow, I'm the complete opposite of you. I always start with a character, and have heaps of trouble developing a plot. I like your idea about using stereotypes, as long as you make them your own that could be really fun.

    Interesting post!