Characters, characters, characters…(or the voices in your head)

Two months have flown by and I haven’t posted at all on my blog, yikes!!!
Happy Easter to those who celebrate and Happy Sunday for those who don’t.
Seriously though, how do you identify the voices in your head and create the wonderful characters that just leap off the page?

We all know those characters, the ones we identify with, the ones we wish we were, the ones we love to hate, etc.  How do we create them? Do we open the file cabinet in our heads and pull out a thick file with your characters complete dossier already worked out? Or how about this, a name gets stuck in your head and damned if you aren’t going to create a character based on that name.  Oh wait!  I know, you’ve always envied this one person in your life and imagined yourself in their shoes, so like Walter Mitty you begin to create an alternate reality for this person, crafting your story as you go.

Who is she???

Let’s be honest, character development can be a chore, but it can also be a hell of a lot of fun! First of all, don’t think of it as work. Have fun with it.  Picture your character in your head. Now describe what you see.  First thoughts only.  Okay, now use one of the many writing tools/character development sheets available and start asking your character some questions. Here’s one from Taunaki on the NaNoWriMo forum-they compiled the list from a couple of different character sheets.

Full Name/Nickname:
  1. Age:
  2. Gender:
  3. Date of Birth:
  4. Ethnicity:
  5. Occupation:
  6. Hair color/style:
  7. Eye color:
  8. Accent (if any):
  9. Height:
  10. Weight:
  11. Tattoos:
  12. Piercings:
  13. Birthmarks:
  14. Disfigurements:
  15. Scars:
Personality Overview:
  1. Fears:
  2. Childhood:                                          
  3. Adolesence:
  4. Adulthood:
Fashion Sense
  1. How do they usually dress?
  2. What do they wear to sleep?
  3.  Do they wear jewelry?
  4. Is there anything about their appearance they wish they could change?
  5. How would they look as the opposite sex?
  6. What do they smell like? Why (do they wear the scent or does it occur naturally)?
  7. Do they have an accurate mental picture of their appearance (how they see themselves versus how the world sees them)?
  8. Choose a different time period and describe what your character would have been like in that time period.
  9. Favorites, habits, likes and dislikes:
  10. What are some of your character’s hobbies? What do they do with their time?
  11. Favorite color:
Favourites
  1.  Books or Favorite music artists:
  2. Movies or TV shows:
  3. authors:
  4. Favourite Actors/actresses:
  5. Political stance? Are they active in politics or do they not care?
  6. What are some of their pet peeves?
  7. What sort of gifts do they like?
  8. What is their favorite time of day?
  9. Favorite weather? Season?
  10. Where do they like to spend their time?
  11. Favorite food? Favorite drink? Hot drinks, soft drinks, or alcohol?
  12. Favorite animal?
  13. Do they have any pets? Do they want any?
  14. What relaxes them?
  15. Do they have any bad habits?
  16. What are some things that they don’t like? (least favourite food/drink, weather/season, etc)
  17. What are they allergic to?
Resources and abilities:
  1. Where did they learn their abilities?
  2. If they have an income, where does it come from?
  3. Do they have a job? Do they like it? How do they feel about their co-workers?
  4. Why do they have their resources? How long have they had them, and how have they served the character over time? (Ex. Contacts, money, political power, fame, etc.)
  5. Where does your character live? Why did they choose it, and how did they acquire it? How do they handle intruders (graciously? violently?)? Describe the space.
  6. What are some of your character’s more notable merits and flaws (including physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.)? How did they develop? How has this helped or hindered them in the past?
  7. How are they with technology?
  8. Are they specially qualified in any particular field? Would they be considered at the top of the field?
  9. Have they ever been publically acknowledged for anything? (Ex. Nobel Prize)
  10. Is there anything they’ve deliberately sought to improve at?
  11. Do they speak more than one language?
Relationships and history:
  1. What is their family history like? How does it affect them? How do they feel about their family? How does their family feel about them?
  2. What were they like as a child? What was their favorite toy? Favorite game? Playmates?
  3. What did they want to be when they grew up?
  4. Describe their best and worst memories from childhood.
  5. Where (and when) did they grow up? How did they view it as a child, and did that change as they matured? How do they feel about the place now?
  6. Do they, or have they in the past, had a mentor? What was their relationship with this person, and how has it changed since then?
  7. What sort of education have they had? Do they want more?
  8. Who was their idol growing up? Who was the first person they fantasized about?
  9. Who is their closest friend, and why? What do they like to do with this person?
  10. Do they have any rivals? Who and why?
  11. Have they ever been betrayed? By who, and how did it affect them?
Sex and Romance:
  1. What is their sexual orientation? Do they ever question it?
  2. When did they lose their virginity? Who to? Where? What was it like?
  3. What is their favorite sexual fantasy?
  4. Do they have any particular fetishes or kinks?
  5. What’s the strangest thing they’ve ever done in bed?
  6. Is there anything in particular that they won’t do?
  7. What are they attracted to in a partner?
  8. If applicable: who is their current partner, and what attracted the character to them? How did they meet? How long have they been together? What kind of a relationship is it? Do they have any plans for the future?
  9. What would be their perfect date?
  10. Describe one of the character’s past relationships and what was significant about it.
  11. Have they ever hurt someone they loved?
  12. Do they fall in love easily?
Future:
  1. What are their dreams? What do they want to do someday?
  2. Are there places they want to go? Where and why?
  3. If these don’t apply already: do they want to get married? Have kids?
  4. Would they ever consider adopting a child? Why or why not?
  5. Do they have any prominent sensory associations? (Ex. the smell of their mother’s perfume, the sound of ice cracking under their feet as a child, etc.)
  6. Who do they want to meet?
  7. What about them is heroic?
  8. What would the character be like in their old age?
  9. Describe one (or more) plots you would like to do.
  10. Stuck in a waiting room. Which magazine do they pick up?
Morality:
  1. What is one thing in their past they’re ashamed of? One thing they’re proud of?
  2. Describe one fight they’ve had in the past (physical or otherwise).
  3. What is one thing they feel strongly about?
  4. One trait they admire?
  5. What disturbs them?
  6. Do the ends justify the means in their eyes?
  7. Are they a leader or a follower? Why?
  8. What do they feel responsible for? (Ex. I owe it to the world to do this.)
  9. Do they believe that a person can redeem themselves from mistakes of the past?
  10. What scares them?
  11. How do they feel about death? Have they been significantly affected by it?
  12. Do they value faith over reason or vice versa?
  13. Do they believe in an afterlife?
  14. Do they have any habits that reflect their beliefs? (Ex. regular prayer, vegetarianism, etc.)
  15. Do they respect the beliefs of others?
  16. Would they be more likely to act for the good of one or the good of many?
  17. Are they manipulative?
  18. Choose a holiday and come up with a potential scenario involving your character and that holiday.
  19. Is the character religious? What are their views, and why or why not?
  20. How would they like to die?
  21. Choose a person, historical or fictional, and write about a meeting between them and your character.

 You get the idea.  Now obviously you don’t have to answer every question but answering a lot of them will help you flesh out your characters.  You can tailor the questions to the story you are writing as well and get rid of the questions that don’t apply.  The thing is this: The more developed your characters are the more your reader will connect with them.  You want the reader to have a visceral reaction to what happens to their favorite characters.  You want them to identify with them.  If you are writing a fight scene, you want your reader to feel the anxiety, tension and fear that your character is feeling.

So yeah, characters, aka the voices in your head, help identify them-ask questions.
Ciao for now!
L.E. Perez