A Real Character

In a quest to create something that is entertaining in written form, the characters that drive a plot need to be engaging with the audience. Perhaps it is a common trait shared or a familiar way of thinking and solving the problems. The character becomes the window into the storyteller’s mind as the tale is told. This becomes the voice of the writer as the story moves along. It may not be a first person voice all the time, but the narrative does unfold around this particular character. Instinctively, the author dips into this pool and allows the character choose the path that each takes. Strong characters will become fascinatingly independent. However, here is the question: what elements must be addressed in order to make this possible? How does an author make a character?

As with any new skill or self-taught talent, turning to information on techniques is the first step. The numerous sources of information on the Internet can provide a vast pool to choose from. One of the common techniques is to create the traits of the character with a questionnaire. Favorite color and hobbies might be included, but the focus is on the personal features and simple background. This particular aid helped with the very simple foundation of the character.

Building on this, the construction of the character moves to a stage where the simple traits are fleshed out with a few descriptions of the personality and a little history.  This is a framework to enhance with further details of the background history for the character. Perhaps the veteran cop grew up in a rough neighborhood and had some friends who ended up on the other side of the law. The torn loyalties to his old friends and his duty as a law officer can play upon his life.  The stretch of the features can create a vast range of emotions and personality reactions.

Once the structure begins to take on the weight of a fleshed-out history, it is time to test the waters with this newly minted character and his personality in a few short paragraphs with a small obstacle to test him. The thinking of the character is governed by his past and his present. Soon, he is creating a future without the author actually knowing what will happen next. A curious energy will take over the character if the story is good enough. Nothing fulfills the character’s existence more than the challenges and struggles. Finding success in lieu of these gives the character life.

This brings the character element to the story framework and readies for the plot. Now most techniques involve what is called a character sketch which can help this process from the beginning, but I believe that should be the last piece. With the traits set, the history constructed, and the personality formed, the character sketch is a technique similar to the short story test, but it is mainly a reflection of the character at the start of the larger story. It is the jump-off point for the fiction and frames all the elements in a few pages.

As an author sits to begin, the techniques are varied, but the results come from the correct elements. It is not always the course for every writer and it would be interesting to listen to the different ways that authors create. For the moment, these techniques will have to work to produce the proper cast for the story. What does matter is that characters find a story and the plot evolves into a life of its own.

crudus animus

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About I Write Irate

For me, this is a personal exploration into a part of me that has been silent for years. It is an opinion. It is an expression. It is who I am. The revelations will come and the patient reader will enjoy the craft displayed. I offer a challenge: Read this and you will come to understand a voice that speaks to the heart of the issue. It can reveal a compassion that some have left behind. Enjoy.

4 responses to “A Real Character”

  1. Debs says :

    I’ve always worked backwards when it comes to characters. For me, the characters are there to tell the story, so it’s the story which comes first and the characters are changed and shaped by the story, as it unfolds.

    • I Write Irate says :

      Interesting. I have talked with a few authors who have worked in that fashion. One even suggested that he would just sit down and start without any preparation. All he had to start with was a few names and the setting. I think that it is the preference of the author. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Alex Jones says :

    I wonder if it is of benefit to try and imagine yourself as the character and in some manner act it out in real life to experience insight from it for the story.

    • I Write Irate says :

      Actually, some of my more vivid characters have gone through that exact process. I have worked out the quirks and put some very good characters in writing. Part of me is in the writing for sure that way.

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