Newbie lesson #1 – Planning out characters.

For the past few weeks I’ve been a part of the Young Writer’s workshop – which has been awesomely put together by Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe.

What I love about the workshop the most so far is the facebook group that is filled with the most awesomely amazing nerds ever. They all support each other, answer questions and read each other’s work. (I got my first beta reader btw!)

I really love being a part it!

It does mean that I’m exposed to a lot of brand new writers though. Writers who haven’t written their first novel yet. Writers who don’t know how to write that fist sentence or how to plot that first character. There are questions being asked on the group every day.

Inspired by their questions, I have decided that I want to write a writing lesson on one of the basics of writing.

How to create a character.

So here it is.

How to create a character – My own method.

In my time writing I’ve discovered that no matter how bad the rest of your story is, people will still love it if you’re characters are well written. That’s not a promise but that is how it works for me. For me characters are the heart of a story.

So that’s why it’s the first thing I want this series to cover.

Let’s get into it.

The first thing you need to do to create a character is grab a piece of paper. I use a normal A4 sheet with lines on it. You will hopefully not need too much more paper than that at first.

Now what do you put on the paper?

(there is an example of how it should look at the bottom of the post. Fill in sheet style)

Name:

At the top of your paper write down your character’s name. If you can’t think of anything go check out this baby naming site.

I like using a name with a meaning behind it, because that way I already have the first aspect of my character figured out. (example: Nava- beautiful. Bellona – goddess of war)

Gender:

In the next line write down either male or female… simple right?

Age:

Third line is age. I was taught that if you’re a new writer try to keep your characters around your own age – give or take two years. That way you can relate to them and as a result they’ll be more realistic. If you’re a grown writer who wants to write children’s books you may skip this advice.

Appearance:

Now the fourth part is where things get exciting.

In about 6 lines (on the paper) explain how your character looks. Go into detail.

When I was just starting out I thought that all you needed to describe a character was eye and hair colour. I was very naive back then.

No – eye and hair colour is not what takes to make a character appear to your reader. Instead try to go into depth in how your character looks at certain times of the day. Think about how they move. Think about the tiny scars that cover their arms etc.

Good things to use in descriptions are how they move, what kind of body build they have, how they dress, if they have long thin fingers or short chubby ones. These details help make a character real so take a minute to write down as much as you can think of.

Where necessary also add how they feel about their appearance.

Hermione had large front teeth. She hated them.

Doesn’t that give way more of an impression than eye colour?

Character’s life

Now take another six lines and fill in a bit about the character’s past and present.

Before you can write a story you need to know what mindset your character is currently in.  So go ahead and write down what you have figured out about them by now.

Here you should basically start by writing a quick overview of the character which can be prompted with questions such as. What social class is your character in? How caring is this character? How many family members does this character have, who do they care for the most etc.

Next think about their past. What have they lived through? What was a couple of defining points in their lives? Who helped them along the way?

Lastly what is your character’s current mindset? What is your character busy doing with in their life before your story begins? What is your character doing day in, day out? Does your character have any goals?

This will help you know who your character is when you just start off with a project.

That’s it. Those are five simple areas that if answered correctly give you a character.

Now write.

The next step would be to honestly observe your character. I’m going to give you a scene and then you just place your character into the scene and write it out so you can see what kind of character you have.

This helps because it sets you into the mindset of your character, and if the character acts out of the guidelines you built, you’ll be able to decide how to fix that problem before you start with your main project.

Scene

Your character is about to have a lesson in (insert interest of choice) and is laughing with their friend to the side when their instructor barks at them to come show off what they had been practicing the week before.

How your character approaches the lesson is up to you.

Got it? Go.

When you’re done, feel free to share your writing with me. I love reading how other writers interpret my prompts.

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