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Character construction and consideration.
Characters are the crucial to the writing of excellent fiction and non-fiction. Characters who are dull, two dimensional and lifeless do not engage the reader, that is, unless there is purpose behind the dullness or lifelessness. Readers are usually fascinated by quirks, mystery and curiosity. A level of identification is also useful to enable identification with the character. One of the easiest ways to create an interesting character is to create a biography (a character history) of that character. You may like to consider the following when building your character:
Note: you can use these considerations for real or imagined characters.
· Addictions – drinking, smoking, coffee, sex or food?
· What activities do they do?
· How do they maintain themselves?
· What is their choice of clothing?
· What period of time were they born?
· What do they eat? What is their favourite food?
· What are their ambitions?
· What motivates them?
· Who are their friends?
· Have they made any sacrifices?
· Have they suffered hard times?
· What makes them who they are?
· Who would they like to be?
· Where do they go on holiday?
· How do they cope with stress?
· What makes them stressed?
· Do they exercise? What sort of exercise?
· Inner world/outer world.
· What kind of house do they live in?
· Are they single or married?
· Do they have children?
· Do they suffer from any ailments?
· Victim, rescuer or persecutor?
· Why are they interesting?
· Are they overweight or underweight?
· Why would anyone want to read about them?
· What are their fears?
· What is the worst situation you could put them in?
· If they had to confess one thing what would they confess?
· What are their quirks?
· Do they fall into a stereo type or cliché?
· What are their flaws?
· What are their hobbies?
· Satisfaction level – happy and content versus angry and discontent?
· What would their friends say about them?
· What would their mum say about them?
· How do they justify their behaviour?
· What makes them laugh?
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Consider the below approaches:
1) Sometimes it is easier to find a picture that resembles the character you intend to create. Try browsing through art books that feature portraits. Family photos, magazines and the Internet are great resources for finding inspiring faces.
2) When writing about the character consider all the senses. How do they appear? What stands out? How does the person talk? Accent, tone of voice, stutter? What smells come to mind? What aftershave or perfume would they choose? How would you describe their skin, hair, clothes and posture?
3) Consider the people around you including friends, relatives and co-workers. When you write what you know it is more convincing. Real life is often more interesting than the imagined. Using what you know, try combining character traits of those who you like and dislike.
4) An individual exists beyond the moment and so should your character. Build the personality outside the story. Consider their past, present and future. Accumulate as many details as possible until you really know that person. Consider them in different situations, on a train, in a lift, at a party or dealing with a crisis.
5) Look at the inner traits of the character versus how they are appear. What the character conceals makes them interesting too. What is the character’s inner dialogue? What is the character trying to conceal from the world?
All of the above will help you develop a more three dimensional character.
6) A basic character sketch can include:
· Physical description
· Partner/Ideal partner
· What makes them angry and what makes them happy
· Strengths and weaknesses
· Fears & Hopes
7) Consider using metaphors and do your best to avoid stereotypes. The most vicious bully could be in the guise of the sweetest little girl instead of the more obvious bulldog-featured man. Also the character who is willowy can be considered metaphoric for flexibility and lenience. The rigid character can be considered stubborn or resistant.
8) It is often the case that the best loved characters have the most obvious flaws. A character with flaws, quirks and emotions is far more interesting than those who are perfect. Consider positive and negative traits. The villain who evokes sympathy because of their flaws is far more powerful and interesting than someone who is simply vile and rotten to the core. Imagine a character who desperately wants to be kind but when the kindness is not noticed they become angry.
9) Avoid being too obvious. It is all very easy to re-create characters that we have been influenced by; however, the fun is pushing them and making them more interesting.
10) The general consensus of opinion is that perfect characters are not that interesting. So have fun using contradictions and polarities. Take for example the cleaner who does not wash or the gourmet chef who lives on fast food.
EXERCISE FOR CHARACTERS:
Write two positive traits such as kindness and compassion. Now write one negative trait such as anger or jealousy. Use these traits to describe one of the characters you have in mind.
To make the characters more complex write three positive traits like cheerful, optimistic and gentle with two negative traits such as a compulsive liar and manipulator. Take these to a character you have in mind and write the character with these traits. See what happens and where your character leads you.
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