30 Days Of Writing: Day 9

How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

I get ideas for characters from all over, everywhere, anywhere, and sometimes nowhere. My ideas can come from live experiences/situations, books I’ve read, films/animations I’ve watched, illustrations I’ve seen, video games I’ve played, etc.

I created the character of Christine Archer, a lead in my screenplay “Things People Do”, from a girl I drove passed who was standing at a Bus Stop in the rain one early morning.

A lot of my earlier “fantasy” characters were influenced by MANY days, nights, and quarters playing Street Fighter at my local arcade, Blimpies, back in Brooklyn. That fighting game franchise gave my analytical ass a certain outlook on character powers and abilities. I would take a character like Chun Li and break down her special moves and figure out a way to explain her powers other than saying she’s just using her “Chi”.

Just recently, I got an idea for a character,  some dude, who has lost everything, exactly what I don’t know, but the feeling I got was that he had lost everything, like his wife and children or something like that. Every morning he wakes up to his alarm clock, gets out of bed, washes, gets dressed, and before he leaves to go to work, he plays a quick round of Russian Roulette with a .45 revolver. Crazy? Yeah, I know. It has something do with him losing everything and not wanting to live anymore, but he’s too afraid to just “outright” commit suicide, so he temps fate every morning by spinning a single bullet in the chamber of a .45 and pulling the trigger.

That guy? I don’t know his name yet, but he came out of nowhere, and will probably be the focus of another screenplay. I have to flesh him about a bit more, obviously, to figure out just what his problem is, but I have time. I have to finish “Shotgun” and “To Turn A Blind Eye” first before I can get to “roulette dude”.

The process for creating/developing/fleshing out my characters is a pretty straight forward one. I’ve learned through trail and error, and taking pointers from other writers.

I have a Character File Template with fields of information that need to be filled out before I seriously start putting a character into a story. Of course, there are some exceptions. But by filling in every single field, I’m forced to seriously think about my character from many different aspects and come up with information that makes sense, flows together seamlessly/intelligently, and is in whole coherent.

The main points I hit on, other than a characters personality, are their:
Goals: What do they want?
Motives: Why do they want it?
Conflict: What’s stopping them from getting it?
Risk: What are they risking to get it?
Attemptt: How do they plan on getting it?

Below is the complete Character File Template.

  1. Name:
  2. Age:
  3. Race:
  4. Gender:
  5. Description:
  6. Clothing:
  7. Past:
  8. Present:
  9. Family:
  10. Friends:
  11. Relations:
  12. Education:
  13. Aspiration:
  14. Occupation:
  15. Hobbies:
  16. Characteristics:
  17. Personality:
  18. Likes:
  19. Dislikes:
  20. Goal:
  21. Motive:
  22. Conflict:
  23. Risk:
  24. Attempt:
  25. Resolution:
  26. Skills:
  27. Abilities:
  28. Possessions:

I am going to try another method that I came across on another writer’s blog, who has also done 30 Days Of Writing: http://www.penrefe.com/. It is a method that I’ve heard a lot of other writers mention in terms of fleshing out their characters.

It’s a list of 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Character. I’ve grown to like this method because it instantly forces you to “BE” the character as you answer the questions. It’s like a Character Interview which I like is really cool. The key is to pretend that you are actually talking with the character, interviewing them, and just see what comes out, what they have to say.

Now, of course, me being me, I have to modify everything, and customize it to fit my needs and I’ve done this with the list of 10 questions. It’s now 26, and the OCD in me wants to make it nice round 30. Expanding on the questions fits me and my style, it may not fit with others. Some may think it’s too many questions, but that’s why it’s great that we all have our own style and process.

Here are “my” Character Interview Questions.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What are you?
  3. How old are you?
  4. What do you look like?
  5. What’s your clothing Style?
  6. What’s your highest level of education?
  7. What do you do for a living?
  8. Where do you live?
  9. Where do you come from?
  10. What kind of person are you?
  11. Do you have any hobbies?
  12. What do other people think of you?
  13. Do you have any family?
  14. Do you have any  friends?
  15. Do you have any enemies?
  16. What’s one of the best moments of your life?
  17. What’s one of the worst moments of your life?
  18. What’s your current situation?
  19. What do you want?
  20. Why do you want that?
  21. What’s stopping you from getting it?
  22. What are you risking to get it?
  23. How do you plan on getting it?
  24. Do you have any special skills?
  25. Do you have any special abilities?
  26. Do you have any favorite possessions?

I think that using these questions, and letting the character tell me about themselves, will be much more fun than just filling in fields of information.

What do you think?

4 comments

  1. Wow! That’s some list! A lot of my characters have just come from within…just somebody that popped into my head. Sometimes I’m not sure of the story yet and will write some prelim info on them like looks and personality. Other times, I have taken real life people and turned them into characters.

    Like

    • My list is so extensive because I hate when I’m writing a character and I get stuck because I don’t really know them, who they are, what they want, what they would do in certain situations. The list is a good “Checks and Balances” for me. Helps me make sure that all the characters in the story actually have a story to tell, a personality, and are totally different from one another, each having their own personal goals to achieve, which is where all of the conflict comes in.

      Like

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