Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I.W.S.G. (3) - Creative Characters

One of the things that has always concerned me about my writing is coming up with interesting characters. Back when I first started writing seriously, my characters were one dimensional and drawn from real life people. In the series I'm writing, many characters are drawn from real people. So I never gave them much depth because I expected all my friends who read my stories to know everything about them (I was only about 17 at the time). Character development was something I hadn't even thought of. As such, a lot of my dialogue went this way:

Jeff said, "Look!"
Kevin said, "What does she want?"
Jenny replied,"Why are you sitting here?"

Not taking any writing courses, I'm always worried I have not developed my characters fully enough. But I read many articles online and have various times subscribed to Writers Digest. With a lot of practice, my characters now feel as if they have more dimension because I follow tips on how to flesh out characters. In fact, now when I write, I create character sheets for just about anyone appearing in my stories. I try to find three words to identify what sort of person they are, list their likes, their dislikes, and a bit of their background. Even if I don't utilize those aspects in the story, my characters seem to have more depth and my writing has more depth too.

* * * * * * * * * *

Erick suddenly felt ill when he saw his ex-girlfriend walking towards him. "Crap, Kenny! Jenni's walking over here. I can't deal with her right now."

"I think she still wants you," Kenny said laughing. "Or she's looking for her lost diary again. Are you sure you didn't steal it?"

Erick realized Kenny was joking, but he didn't appreciate either comment.

"You do realize, of course, you are sitting at my table? I'm going to have to ask you to move."

Erick and Kenny exchanged looks. Who did she think she was? Lord of the Lunch-room?

* * * * * * * * * *
So I think my writing has developed, but are my characters truly unique? I'll be exploring that topic next time.

Questions:
What process do you use to create characters?
Do you have any characters based on real life people?
How do you feel you best learned to hone your writing talent?

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22 comments:

  1. That was a big improvement!
    I don't think I've based any of my characters on real people. I guess that was a good thing.

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    1. Thanks for the comment.
      Just for the record, any person I have used as a template, is never a direct carbon copy of the actual person. Realistically, they are just guidelines, or templates.

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  2. I just start writing and little traits come out. My biggest problem is keeping up with them and staying consistent, since I'm not a planner, but I have Scrivener now, so hopefully that will help. Just have to remember to enter new characteristics in my character sheets when I come up with them.

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    1. I have heard of Scrivener but never utilized it. Is it really helpful? I'll have to consider using it. I have pages and pages of notes. Don't know what I'd do if I lost all my notes.

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  3. Character sheets are so much fun and that info will come in handy when you have readers and they want to know more about your characters than what you revealed in your book. :)

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    1. I just need to remember to update them as I progress in my story.
      I still think my characters need a little bit of work.

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  4. Characters grow throughout a draft for me, gaining more depth as they take up more word realty. Layers. They grow in layers for me.

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    1. I think some of my characters have developed because in rewriting I've had to drop certain characters causing the remaining characters to have a deeper level of interest. Like you, every rewrite I do, adds an extra bit more reality.

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  5. What process do you use to create characters? There are the characters you know about before you start writing. Then there are the characters that just appear as you're writing. You didn't expect or plan on them. I've found they can be the most interesting.
    Do you have any characters based on real life people? I have traits from various people that I incorporate into characters. However, I can't say I have any one character that is based on anyone I know. Aspects of people, yes. Total personality, no.
    How do you feel you best learned to hone your writing talent? When I'm struggling I'll read a book on writing (James Scott Bell writes really good books on the craft with exercises included), or I'll just read. Then I make notes on what I liked about the book. These two things will often help me find and change what's not working in my own ms.

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    1. I've always found it interesting how sometimes writing takes develops on it's own. Characters appear is a part of that process.
      When I first started writing, a lot of my characters were actual people. Over time, I stopped doing that.
      Hmm, sounds like an interesting guy to check out. I like his middle name too.

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  6. I took writing courses at the nearby college when I wanted to expand my talent. One thing I remember was creating characters was like peeling an onion. It was all done in layers. You could add a layer to the character and give them more depth.

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    1. One of these days, perhaps I'll showcase one of my character sheets for IWSG. To examine the layers I'm trying to build.

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  7. Yes, I think your characters are getting more developed.
    I have to admit that's one of my insecurities, too, but I think that continuing to delve into our characters and the stories they live in can help.

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    1. That's where rewrites help me. And continually to read blogs and articles on character development.

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  8. Since I wrote nonfiction for more than three decades, I was very insecure about writing fiction for this kind of reason. I think you're doing the right things by reading writing books and asking for feedback.

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    1. Even though I think the more often someone writes, the more they improve, I also believe doing a lot of reading is certain to help. Feedback helps tremendously. I've never submitted a book to be published, but I suppose a rejection letter (as long as it's not just a form letter) would still be useful for feedback.

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  9. That's a lot of improvement! Just keep practicing and reading a lot is so key to seeing different styles and the such.

    If there's one thing I consistently get compliments on, it's my dialogue. Otherwise, I dunno. I try to make sure my characters are 3D.. I draw them, I make detailed character sheets.. I sometimes write flash fiction or short stories featuring them. It helps.

    I think, the first creative writing class I took helped me so much. It was a super constructive and positive environment.. there wasn't a certain right way that was the teacher's way (I've heard this happens a lot). The second creative writing class I took didn't help so much. It was strictly online and was too formulaic for my taste. Plus, it felt like I was writing with a bunch of dunces.

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    1. Interesting perspective on the writing classes.
      Speaking of improvement, one of these days I'm going to have to share a sample chapter from one of my YA episodes from when I first wrote it nearly 30 years ago. I think everyone will notice a big difference.

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  10. You shouldn't worry about not having taken any courses. There is no substitute for practice, which you've done. You've improved so much, you should be proud. Keep on writing.

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    1. Great encouragement, thanks for saying so. Thanks for stopping by.

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  11. Ooo, I like the improvement since I'm such a fan of character development.

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    1. I agree. Character development is a lot of fun.

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