I don’t know about you, but pretty much my favorite part of writing is creating the characters for my story. I just love having the basic concept of a story in mind, and letting characters evolve and find their place, earning personality traits, odd quirks, a unique history…they find themselves settling in beside the other characters, forging relationships or feuds, adding depth and intrigue to what had begun as simply a basic plot concept.
The characters are what give a story heart and emotion; they lose and they win and they battle for what they want, all the while struggling with inner demons or falling in love or even dying a brutal death. We use characters as tools to drive our stories forward, to motivate our plot towards the climax, towards the twists and turns that compel the reader to want more. Heck, sometimes I even find myself so hung up on a character I created that I want to know more, even if the book is completed. But that’s a great thing, it means the character is memorable, special in some way, even if it is only to the author.
And hey, we should all be writing for ourselves first and foremost or else it stops being fun 😉
But anyways, I was thinking about a novel I recently completed that is now in the early stages of editing. It is not related to the Dryad Quartet series, but is instead a completely different series about a prominent hotel family. And I was remembering how fun and crazy and challenging it was to create all of the characters for this book (it’s a family dynasty, ergo lots and lots of characters!). It was, without a doubt, one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted. But at the same time, I had been pondering over this particular book concept for a long time, and so by the time I got around to coming up with the characters, the ideas flowed so naturally.
When imagining a character, I always first like to start with astrology. I know this may sound silly to a lot of you, but I carry my Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs book around everywhere and have scoured every page, absorbing different types of personalities and traits that I don’t possess. So when brainstorming ideas for a character, I start with selecting a sign, just so that way I have some footing on which direction I should go with them.
For example, the first character I drafted up for this hotel book was the oldest son of the family (probably because I already knew he was going to be my favorite somehow lol). I knew immediately that he had to be a Capricorn. I mean, I imagined him in my head being very serious, a workaholic, committed to his family and strict with tradition. He would be socially awkward and hardnosed, stubborn as all heck, but at the same time he would show great kindness to those who deserved it. He would be a fair man, with an unmatched moral code and an ability to see through others’ lies and deceit. He would trust no one, and nothing, unless his own eyes had seen the proof.
There. I had my main guy’s personality. But what should he look like? This is always fun too 😉 As the oldest son, the heir, his presence should be commanding, his aura a bit intimidating and his demeanor closed off and at times cold. He would carry great pressure upon his shoulders and heavy responsibility, so he would need to be strong in appearance, but not in the muscle-builder sense. So I gave him height, a few inches over six feet, and I gave him a trim form nearly always donned in designer suits (only the best for cappy!). Rich, bark brown hair, cropped shorter for practicality, but still enough to show its natural waves. Eyes of dark tawny, intense in their perception of his surroundings and of the people he is with. He misses nothing. He would have a strong, firm handshake, indicative of his position and of his name (very prominent, wealthy family, remember?). And lastly, he would hardly ever smile. A man so focused on work hardly does, and there is little he finds worth smiling over. He is committed to work, not to play, and so the slightest curve of his lips is the only indication he gives that he is pleased.
PHEW! Okay, so now that’s pretty much it, right? Oh, no. Not quite. You see, now that I’ve built him up, settled on his basic personality traits, fomulated my thoughts on who he is and what his faults are, now I need someone to interact with him. Someone who will come into his life and affect him in some way, good or bad.
In this case, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I choose good 😉
So I think of what kind of girl could possibly influence a man like this. A man so set in his ways, so structured and closed off…well, she would have to be equally as stubborn, wouldn’t she, to put up with his cold, shrewd nature and somehow find the good in him? It would take a lot of determination, a lot of self confidence and ambition to accomplish such a feat.
Well, a Taurus girl would be up to the challenge! And her homely nature and mothering habits would appeal to his inner, secret need for approval, and comfort his sense of low self esteem, the one that badgers at him every waking hour but that he fights to ignore. Only a woman determined enough to keep digging at him would ever get him to open up. And it wouldn’t hurt if she had a killer smile that drew him in from the start, one that lights up the room and drowns out everything else. She wouldn’t be pretty, or necessarily smart or thin…but she would be warm. She would bring warmth to his cold, hardened soul.
Alas, there you go. Two characters, fleshed out at least partially (backstory comes as brainstorming progresses, of course). They will feed off of each other and give depth to the story that would not have existed without them. Isn’t it beautiful?
I think it is 🙂 and that’s why I will always consider creating characters to be my favorite part of writing a story!
“However far fiction writers stray from their own lives and experiences – and I stray pretty far from mine – I think, ultimately, that we may be writing what we need to write in some way, albeit unconsciously.” -Wally Lamb