Saturday, October 8, 2011

Character Creation - Who am I?

So I have been considering what to write for today's blog post.  I should probably make a schedule and post to that but so far it seems to be every two or three days.  I'll try not to let too much time pass in between for anyone who's interested in reading it more frequently.

Today's post is on Characters since I haven't yet posted anything directly about them.  I've been considering my own characters for the novel I'm working on and I've been comparing them to my favourite characters in various books I've read.  There is always something about each of the characters I love in other books that speaks to me in one way or another.  I'm a fan of the down and out or misunderstood characters personally, but I do love other characters as well.

Phantom by Susan Kay has long been my favourite book, it's an in depth look at what the Phantom of the Opera's life before, up to, during and after the whole Opera thing might have been like.  Erik (predictably perhaps) is and always have been one of my favourite characters.  What I love about Susan Kay's version over other versions is how real she makes him.  He's someone who grows up in a world that doesn't understand him, and he is brilliant and very, very human.  (Also see Elizabeth which is another of Susan Kay's book, though they're both out of print as far as I know if you can get your hands on it, definitely do it).  Erik is a rich, complex character at all ends of the evaluation.  One of the things I think really works for this story is that you also get a good look at his parent's history as well as his own.  It's not a huge in depth thing but it tells you what you need to know so you understand why his mother raises him the way she does and a lot about their relationship and his subsequent life choices.  Susan Kay does the same thing with Queen Elizabeth in her other novel (mentioned above).  If you want to know how to write intricate well thought out characters Susan Kay has long been one of my favourites.

The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings is another book whose character has stuck in my mind for a long time as someone I love to read about.  Althalus is witty and entertaining at his very heart and he carries you through the story rapidly because you want to know more about him.  He's so engaging in that book that despite it being a fairly sizable book you go through it rapidly.  So there's another type of character, is he misunderstood?  Probably, but I found him simply enjoyable to read as opposed to being fascinated with his complexities or with his history (although he does have a history int he book if I remember correctly).  Some characters are just so fun to read that they could be doing the dishes and you would still think it was funny!  By that way of looking at it, you don't always need a complex character but they have to be somewhat amusing to the reader.

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey was the first book by Lackey I'd ever read of her rather in depth and massive series.  I loved Talia (she's the main character) because she was so shy and awkward and out of place.  It really resounded with me at the time and the more I learned about the character and the world the more I fell in love with the character and the writing.  There's people that you can like and admire and there's people that you just want to cheer on.  Talia you grow with as you grow with the series so there's yet another type of character.

I could go on but this post is already pushing it for normal post lengths.  Every character in these three examples has its own uniqueness to it.  Now since I"m the one identifying with them they've all got something in common with me and so with each other as well.  But at the same time they are incredibly distinct and unique.  What you want most with your characters are to make them memorable to people, characters that someone can identify with.  To that thought, I know I need to make my characters unique from each other.  I use different parts of my own personality, my own traits to make the characters someone I identify with and then try to write someone else who might identify better with someone else.  It's really hard to write a character I don't identify with so I have to search myself to find that little thread that makes me understand the character and thereby get a character who's different from me, who I would not normally identify with so that someone else might be able to later.  I don't identify with every character and neither will everyone who ends up reading my books.  That doesn't mean the characters can't draw people in if I can make them unique from each other and engaging.  There's always someone who will get them if I keep them consistent and true to themselves.  To do that I make certain I know everything about every character, even those that aren't going to be important for this story.  And hey, who knows, sometimes characters can surprise you if you let them!


  1. Defining my characters was one of the hardest parts of working on my book. My MAIN CHARACTER took me something like three months to nail down properly. I was having a hard time making him a flawed character (no one likes characters that are too perfect).

    For creating characters I sometimes take aspects of my personality and then I also like drawing from parts of other people's personalities as well My wife inspired the personalities for two people in my book.

    It's such a fun process though. Trying to make them interesting without being silly/unrealistic, authentic without being stale.

    I'm glad you're enjoying your writing! Keep at it!


  2. I find that it's harder knowing their personality and getting them to change it for a serious reworking... that's more what I'm dealing with in this one but its' turning out well so far I think. Keep going with your novel! You'll be ready before you know it ;)

  3. The part about being sure to know about characters that aren't important to the story is so so true! Even minor characters have to seem real to the reader, so if you don't know about them, they end up feeling like cardboard and that can be enough to knock a reader out of the story, you know?

    So glad you joined us in Word Wars yesterday over at Writer's Digest! Looking forward to next week :D

  4. It was fun! I'll be trying to join every Saturday now! :)

    As for the minor characters, yeah, I always hate it when you KNOW the character is really just there to drop this one little bit of information and then you'll never see them again...

  5. What I find interesting is when a character that I meant to be minor evolves into something much more. Two characters have graduated into major/significant character status (although one only really starts being significant in books 2/3), and all of them have developed a lot more than I anticipated.

  6. Yeah, that can happen really quickly.