For this first mini-workshop, we are going to create a complex character. Sometimes we see their face, sometimes we hear their voice. They usually come to us by fragments. But how do we identify them, make them ours?
The best feeling as a writer is when my characters come to life, breathe by themselves, and make their own decisions, as if I, the author, don’t really have a matter in this. I would write : “Anna stood up in rage, looked the man straight in the eye and yelled…” then, I would erase all that. “That wouldn’t be my reaction,” she would whisper to me. I see her, in the room, and she is right, her reaction wouldn’t be that. She would stay seated, arms crossed, and would burst into laughter. That is my Anna. She is so tangible that she would talk to me, make me see how she really is. Like an actor that speaks directly to the camera without the spectator anticipating it.
Well, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, I confuse my characters with my own personality, or with the one of a friend. It’s important then to look out for the portrait we made of them.
Everyone has their own method. Feel free to add anything you like to this form. It may at first seem claustrophobic and an uncreative exercise, but restraining ourselves is a method to go further, to construct our thought in an intelligible way, to identify our character and not only see him or her from afar.
And remember, even if you never use all this information you put on the sheet, it helps you create a complete character.
You can post your exercise in the comments section : I will gladly take a look at it and give you constructive feedback! Or you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for a more private feedback.
Want to go further? Try putting your character in a unique situation and test if you have a grip on his or her reactions, thoughts, and more.
Full name : Age : Gender : Where did he/her grew up : Where does he/her lives : city, apartment Studies : establishing previous knowledge of the character Job/Fonction : what does he/she do for a living? Financial situation : Romance situation : Parents : who are they, what is the relationship Other members of the family : Childhood : what was it like? was there a traumatizing memory? was it perfect with a but? Teenage years : how was your character in those years? Adulthood : history till the moment of your story (scratch the unnecessary categories if your character is younger) Secret : your character may have Social skills : how does your character interact with other people What does your character do when alone : or how is she or he when alone Hobbies/Passions : Overall personality : flaws and qualities Physical appearance : insert also special traits like birthmarks How other perceive your character : like a shy person? a mysterious person? a menacing person? Like someone small, very tall, beautiful, ugly? Or is your character invisible to the eyes of others? Physical abilities : someone strong, with endurance, or always sick? Fashion style : what does your character wear? Others :