About Me

My photo
Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Monday, 5 September 2016

Let's Talk Writing: Character Conception

Note: This was supposed to be about character creation, but the first step of it, character conception, grew like a shapeshifting alien with cancer. Guess we'll be talking about writing a lot more!

Hi guys! I just thought I might talk about something a little differently this time. Besides, I am a writer, and it bores me to just keep doing the same thing every day. Hell, I'll even make it a double-post day whenever I do this, so those of you who wants to read my Writing Report and Introduction to Pulau Purba series can still do it every day (almost). Pinkie swear!

So some of you are wondering, how do we create rich, timeless characters in our stories? Before we go on and on about backstories and looks and traits, and all the rest, we'll start with the first step. Never get ahead of yourselves.

Character Conception

I get my ideas from all over the place. I guess I'll get started with an idea closest to me.


Yeah, that's right- Wait, wait! Don't stab me in the guts just yet! I'm definitely not advocating inserting yourself in the story. That's a breeding ground for Mary Sues and Marty Stus. Real icky stuff.

What you do is, you use yourself as a template. By the time you're done transforming yourself, your new character will only share some similarities with you. For this, I recommend keeping some of your own personal personality inside. Why? It helps you to empathise with the character, makes it easier.

Whoa, whoa! Keep that knife in your sheathe! The way I see it, we all share similarities with one another, no matter how different we are. The only reason why people seem so distant from one another is mainly out of genuine or wilful ignorance. We all know love, like that lucky husband of 20 years sitting over there. We all know what it means to be bullied - We're either the victims, witnesses or perpetrators. We all know what it means to be obsessed like Norman Bates, just that we know better how to control it.

Pic 4: I don't know why you keep popping up, Bates. No, just please don't.

Other than using your lonesome for a character, you can then move on with...

Your Peers... Hyuck hyuck...

Yeah, that's right. It's okay to play the villain hat and start sucking your friends and family into your simulated reality.

But really, anyone and everyone around you are like ready-made templates for you to use in your book. From your other half to acquaintances and strangers, they've already brainstormed everything you need by just being. Would be a shame to let them go to waste.

So if you've met any interesting characters, you might just be staring at someone from your book. But like working with yourself as a template, it has to fit the story. Throwing in your sleazy, hairy singlet-wearing nose-picking brother in as the protagonist in a straight-romance novel might not work... Unless you give him some redeeming characteristics, something like a gateway for him to improve himself when he sees a girl he really likes.

Who knows? Maybe another girl in the past really got him down so hard, he never recovered? Maybe he's really just honest to a fault, and humble that he doesn't really care what people thinks? Except now he does...

I don't write romance or erotic fiction, by the way. P-put that sword away.

Anyway, if using yourself or other people doesn't appeal to you, you can always start with...

An Abstract Idea.

Say you need someone who's gonna be a foil to your protagonist. Your protagonist is intelligent, courteous, a moral centre of his group. That means you need someone who really sucks at how he treats people. There you have it, a foil-egg that will hatch into a foil-chick and then a full-fledged adult foil! That's, of course, provided that you feed it anything it needs to develop into the character you want. Throw in the appearances, quirks, personality and history into the bubbling cauldron, you'll need it!

Or you can just start with one abstract idea. Maybe someone all characters gravitate to when they're in need of a shoulder to cry on, or just some advice. Goodness. Kindness. How would a person like that be like? In a fantasy, we'd have an angel-like being, probably of a fantasy race of Seraphims or some such. He or she ( I believe both men and women have their ways to do this kind of good) will probably be old, highly experienced, and bakes cakes and cookies in the morning. Hah.

Otherwise, the Seraphim would be radiating with goodness and kindness. But... Scarred. You can't be good without knowing what evil is. Maybe she'd been in a war before, and got her principles muddied by some questionable act. Or maybe she'd been imprisoned and tortured before. Stuff like that.

That's a good starting point, agree? No, I don't write fantasy either (yet), but just writing like that made me want to.

And then... We can always go the opposite way. You can base a character on...

An Object (or Animal).

We humans have a tendency to anthropomorphise things. We think we're empathising with animals, but in reality, we're projecting ourselves on them. We do the same with objects. Got a storm coming? You curse the weather like you're cursing a local politician who's really done it again.

There's a darker side to this. We objectify people sometimes. It would take years for some and decades for others to unlearn this habit. For the few, probably never. But this can be turned around for good in writing fiction.

I believe we need to both anthropomorphise and objectify to come up with a good character in this method.

Basically, we grow characters, by say, planting a telephone, in the ground. Wait a few days, and it'd grow into a telephone tree. Water it with all the goodness of character creation in the meantime. You'll also get free metaphorical references to the character too, if you can use them. For that last bit, you can always choose to plant more general things, like, say, a machine. A robot. I wonder how would a robot-tree look like.

However, if all else fails, you can always go for the low blow that is...

Pre-Existing Characters.

Take a fictional character who's so realistic and dear to your heart and use him as a template. After all, if I can advocate using real people as templates, then why not them? It's how inspiration works. I'll stop calling it a low-blow if you'd put that chain-whip down.

Just make sure to make the character your own, or it won't be just a bad book you'd be worried about. Not much can be said about this - Use the same techniques as above. Make him your own. By the end, you should have a completely new character who's nothing like the original that inspired him. This method works very well when you're parodying or satirising other works, but it's not exclusively for that. Here's a few tonnes of examples for this:

So there you have it! Now I hope you're overflowing with character ideas! Now, just stop tying me to the stake. Pretty please?

No comments:

Post a Comment