‘Brad, this character is awesome, I just have one question.’
‘Yeah? What’s that?’ I ask.
‘Why are they described exactly like you but with a super exciting life?’
Well done! You made it past the first steps of your writing journey. If you didn’t, then click this link and stop reading this post.
OK, now we’ve gotten rid of the pretenders, let’s talk about one of my favorite things about writing. Creating characters. You’re probably thinking, geez Brad, you’re moving pretty quickly and I’m not sure if you’ve covered the basics. Well, reader, you’re probably right and reading back my previous post, there are still some things to look into before you start writing. But you want to know the problem with all that stuff? It’s work and you’re not writing because you like work, you’re not interested because work is interesting or exciting. No, work is lame and makes me sad. Therefore lets break away from the ‘work’ part of writing and talk about the cool stuff!
So hopefully, you’ve been writing down those weird and wonderful ideas and now you have yourself a nice selection. Depending on your idea you might have already come up with a world or an alternate universe. You might have a villain or an overarching theme. Hell, you might even have some characters. But guess what? Those characters probably won’t stay the way you made them. My favourite thing about writing is building complex, cool and relatable characters. They are the cogs in your great narrative machine. But you need to be careful.
If you jump onto the magical internet and search ‘how to make a character for a novel’ or something like that you’re going to find yourself down some deep and dark rabbit holes. Everyone is an expert here. Everyone. But only one person can bring your character to life and that’s you. Sure there are definitely some guidelines to follow, especially with creating a gripping story arc. But when it comes down to describing your character, creating their mannerisms and the way they talk, well that’s all you. I often find that my friends or people I know are great inspirations for building characters. They’re already established people with mannerisms and beliefs. They express themselves and their emotions in unique ways that just stick with me when I write and I tend to mash multiple people together to make one super character which is tonnes of fun.
Now, you don’t have to do this. It just works for me. I know some budding authors who build their characters from their world, and this is a really good thing to do if you are going through a world-building exercise that’s required when writing fantasy. By doing this your character will often have motives and traits that are unique to your world and that really adds a nice touch. These small things can make the difference between a good in-depth character and a hollow shadow that’s only really there to push the plot along.
I always find that making a character before getting into the nitty-gritty of writing really motivates me. It gets me thinking about what happened to him/her/lizard person to make them the way they are. I’ll put down rough descriptions, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, beliefs and all the other little things that make a character ‘real’. With Catalyst, I wrote a character that had none of that until he started talking. Then I went back and thought, he talks like this and he acts like this so he’s probably been through this. That was super powerful when I went through editing. Readers often picked him as a favourite, and they loved talking about the little quirks or snippets of conversation that made him memorable.
This last idea is a bit out there, and its really only for those who have the cash to commit. Get an artist to draw/paint/visualise your character. Seeing a character I created come to life blew my freaking mind.It was incredible to see this being in front of me, almost exactly how I imagined. I was so pumped I wrote a ridiculous amount the week I received the final product. Not only that but people who see it get excited. I haven’t even finished the first draft of the novel and I have had two prints made up and use them to promote my idea. Its fantastic and really motivates me to bring my characters to life in a thrilling narrative.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say in all this is, enjoy yourself. This is the start of a long and rewarding journey. Some of it will feel like work, a lot of it actually. But remember that you have to give back to yourself, and the best way to do that is to do the cool stuff sometimes. Make a character, write some whacky out there dude or dudette and bring them to life in your own way. Use it to inspire yourself and to share the excitement you have about something that doesn’t even exist yet.