I really didn’t know where to start with the characters in my book. I was so scared of ending up with stereotypical, boring characters, that I kept putting it off. Of course this created a writers block of my own making!
I honestly wasn’t sure about anything in relation to my characters. Male? Female? Age? Location? Occupation? Ethnicity? Etc. Didn’t have a clue. So, I did what everyone does when they have unanswered questions, I googled it!!
This had varying results so, I tried Pinterest too! Across the interweb there are hundreds of tips and resources, but I can’t say that really helped when it came to knowing where to start. It was at this point I stopped being lazy and looking for an easy answer, and actually started looking! I read articles and blogs and had a go using some of the available resources out there.
I had various successes and failures, but I have definitely made good progress and am now finding that my characters are developing more naturally.
Now that my characters have started to come together, I wanted to share with you what I found worked best for me. So, here are my top 5 tips:
1. Names! Infuriating but necessary! I thought I would find this the most difficult, a name can make or break a character, but in hindsight, putting it off had really affected my character development and also started to give them some substance.
To help me pick suitable names, I began by researching the most popular names from when my character was born. Although I hadn't completely settled on an age for my characters, I could at least pin point their birth to a decade! You could also look up the meanings of names, but I struggled with not picking cliched names when doing it this way.
2. A massive turning point for me was realising that if I settled on a birthday, I could then use their star signs to giving me an idea of their traits, strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of whether you believe in star signs or not, there are many sites, books and articles out there with personalities waiting to be analysed! And if the star sign was important, you could always change your characters birthday to suit your needs. Doing this gave me the various key points about my characters and really got me thinking about who they are.
3. Now to give some depth to my characters I focused on where they live. I researched the area and it started giving me hints about my characters, culture, occupation, hobbies, social standing etc. I then teamed these up with their personality traits and suddenly found I was imaging their day to day lives and struggles.
4. Don't get stuck on individual aspects of your character. A few times during my character development, I found I wasted time struggling over my characters beliefs, opinions etc. Eventually I realised that moving on meant that, more often than not, these gaps filled themselves. And, if they didn't, then they obviously weren't an important enough aspect for it to matter.
5. Don't be afraid to change your characters, or aspects of them. I am not at the stage where my characters are growing and developing and they have even surprised me at times when I have realised how they will react and behave in certain situations! On the other hand, keep all versions of your characters incase you change your mind, or something that you thought wasn't important, becomes a crucial part of your plot.
As mentioned before, I have used lots of resources, websites, blogs etc. to help me structure and create my characters and, whatever you find works best for you, I think it is vital that you use a range of sources to avoid 2 dimensional stale characters. However, one site that I found particularly helpful is Life of a story teller.
I've found it to be such a great source of information and help and recommend that you have a peek. I will defiantly be using this site more as I continue my writing journey.