I'm working on the backstory and research of my characters for 'I've Always Known'. A few months ago, I got Erik Tesar, The Mage, mostly figured out. May not know everything about him, but I've got some good ideas on who he is and how his powers work.
Up until recently, he was the only character with a name. I had general ideas on what the others were supposed to be like, but actually building them? Nope, nothing.
Then I did CTC29 and started putting some more thought into who the heck they were. Each one got a name and an idea picture or two. A few of the prompts I worked on, dealt with them and gave me a chance to understand each one a bit more.
But there's still a lot I don't know. I have ages for three of them, but dates are off when you look at the recent backstory and the previous timeline I've built. Meaning, more detail is needed.
Now, my goal is to better understand them so when I start writing, its not blind. Normally my stories have 1-3 characters, this one has 6 PLUS the Antagonists.
I've worked enough on I've Always Known to get the plot line and even a good chunk of the way it'll play out. Which is weird for me, since I'm what's called a 'panster'. I don't do this whole 'plot' thing. I also don't write out to order.
But as another author was editing her story commented, each one has a voice and a path all its own.
So, what did I do for character creation, understanding and background?
1, I searched the web and found several creation guides I liked. Some are a bit over the top in detail, but I figure its better to have too much than have too little.
Here's a list of the ones I've used so far...
Writers Write: How to Create a Character Profile
Jody Hedlund: Character Worksheet
The EPIGUIDE.COM Character Chart for Fiction Writers
TheChugsBoson: Blank Sheet 1 of 2 TheChugsBoson: Blank Sheet 2 of 2 [1 has descriptions of what he feels should be one each question, while 2 has a downloadable version to preserve formatting.]
2, More research to find 1-3 visual images for the characters. If at all possible, look up actors or human images, as well as search Deviant Art or other sites. These are GUIDES! Don't ever ask someone to 'redraw' art, so you can claim its yours. I use them to get an idea, before I edit and create around that. As the character expands and becomes its own person, those images will actually start to not work. Trust me, I've seen it happen more than once.
3, The last thing I did was write simple stories with them. Find prompts and jump into their world. You'll never know or understand them, if you don't write.
I know 2 of the characters very well, without having worked on creation or stories. But through the stories, two others have become more formed and now I want to badly work on those guides to turn them into something more substantial.
No matter how much time I spend with a character, I seldom know every detail and facet of their life. Erik's never shown an interest in romance, so I have no clue if he's gay, straight, bi or just.. Not interested.
Do I think that's a bad thing? While its just my opinion, no. Characters aren't 2 dimensional, they have more going on and I don't even know every facet of myself, why would I know it about a stranger taking up space in my head? That's how I see them when you have a name and an image.
Its the same as walking up to a stranger at a bar and saying 'Hi, I'm so and so.' They give you their name. As right then, unless you're Sherlock Holmes, you know a few things. Their name, what they look like right now and perhaps a drink and/or food preference. Yes, from that initial stage you could learn more. If they're wearing a sports jersey, you might assume they like that team and sport. But they could also have been drug along and put in the shirt to 'get out of the house'.
Here's why I loved the random prompts.
It got me out of a comfort zone, and into their heads. I started one, and the story took a turn I didn't think of. Why? Because the characters opened up and shared. And it was actually a pretty bad moment they shared. But it gave me insight into who they were, what they wanted and what subplot there might be in the full story.
Not bad for a story barely 2 pages long based off a simple prompt.
I should have started off with this, but maybe putting it here's better.
3 years ago at a writing workshop, one of the author said '90%of what I'm about to tell you, won't work for you. And that's fine.'
Advice is a dime a dozen. And advice on writing, seems to be even more than that at times. Some of them make me feel as if I'm not a writer, because I don't live how they tell me I should live. And that's bad.
Yes, I've thought a few people were what I call 'playing at writing', but that's because they never seem to write. They talk about it, they plot and worry about the more minute details, but they never actually write.
But I'd never tell them to give up. In fact, I encouraged one and offered her help as best I could.
What does all this have to do with the theme of the day? This is how I create characters. It works for me. It may work for you. If so, wooo!! If not, s'all good. Keep searching and find something that does.