Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Character creation 101.

On a recent trip to England I somehow ended up buying yet another of those smart self-help books for wannabe authors that seem to be floating around our circles. I wasn't really convinced that I needed another of those books but I bought it anyway after flipping through it. I won't go so far as to state that it is the best book on writing I have read, but it is certainly not the worst and at this point I need to write to live pretty much and felt I could well do with some more advice. The book is called; Your Writing Coach and is by Jurgen Wolff.
I must admit that now I am half-way through it the book has turned out to be an interesting read. Especially his notion that new writers would do well with following a simple lay-out for character creation as the one laid out by Lajos Egri in his book The Art of Dramatic Writing struck a cord with me. It sent me back to the drawing board and forced me to reevaluate some of the characters I have been plotting for my newest work in progress. If anything it made me realize that even characters in a romance/fantasy novel need to be fleshed out. As Wolff states it is crucial for the reader's experience with your book that your characters are believable and in order for them to be believable you need to know everything there is to know about them, but reveal only 2/3 of it to still keep some suspense. What follows is my retyping of Egri's scheme for character creation that I at least will be using this time around even if it is fairly time consuming. (I apologize for the color coding system, it is merely a tool I use when writing in scrivener)

1. Age:
2. Appearance:
3. How does the character feel about their appearance:
4. Describe the character’s childhood in terms of:
A: relationship to parents.
B: Relationship to siblings if any:
C: Relationship to other key people from his or her youth:
D: Lifestyle while growing up:
E: Education:
F: Childhood activities: (hobbies, interests)
G: Locations where he or she grew up:
5: Describe the character’s education during and after the teen years.
6: Describe the character’s current relationships with:
A: Parents:
B: Sibling:
C: Other key people from his or her youth:
7: Describe the character’s romantic life and any relevant background:
8: Describe the character’s sex life and moral beliefs:
9: Does the character have any children? If so describe his or her relationship with them. If not, how does he or she feel about children?
10: What is the character’s religious background? Current beliefs?
11: What is the character’s occupation:
12: Describe the character’s relationship to his/her boss and co-workers:
13: How does the character feel about his/her job?
14: What are the character’s current hobbies or non-work activities?
15: Describe the character’s philosophy of life:
16: Describe the character’s political point of view:
17: Sum up the main aspects of your character’s personality:
18: What is the character proud of?
19: What is the character ashamed of?
20: What is his or her state of health?
21: How intelligent is he or she?
22: Summerize the character’s relationship to other major characters in your story:
23: What is the character’s goal in the story?
24: Why does he she want to achieve this goal?
25: Who or what stands in way of the character? Why?
26: What strengths or qualities will help this character achieve the goal?
27: What weaknesses will hinder the character from achieving the goal?
28: How articulate is the character?
29: Are you planning on killing this character off?
30: Will this character be in the sequal?

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