Writing 101: Creating Characters with Character.

A famous author once said that writing is basically telepathy, and it’s so true. I’ll explain in a bit, so get ready for chapter two.

When you’re writing a story, you want the reader to be there with you. Not in your room, in the story. Weirdo.
Anywho, I’m assuming you’re writing a story with characters and hopefully a plot. We discussed how you need to figure out what it is exactly you want to say – the topic you’ll write about. Now you have to figure out who’s going to say it. There are all kinds of stories circulating around out there, and truthfully, most of them are the same. Hero meets villain, vows revenge and blah blah blah. From Spidery crimefighters to barbaric destroying savages, the theme of overcoming your adversary is what great writing is all about. Even if that adversary is a drunken step father or a fear of ladders.
Once you meet the protagonist (read: disadvantaged) and the antagonist (read: obstacle) the rest of the story is ready to begin. Even telling the tale of how these two come to meet is an adventure, if you tell it right. But what makes a good hero? Or can you really make a decent villain? Well sure you can.
One would normally talk about plot and story planning before character development, but I think it’s the other way around. Personally, I work to create a character and all of their quirks, mannerisms, habits, desires and peeves before i write a story line. I think about what they’d wear and why. Where are they from, how do they speak (Accents? Dialects?) I try to conjure up each characters sense of morality-whether good or bad, and how far is too far. Then I think “What would they say to this idea? How would they react if this happened?” Knowing the character before you set out to write makes it much easier to script what each person would say and do. Dragon pops out of a pepperoni pizza? Jack would say something smart (but it’s o.k., because he’s good with a sword). Sally wouldn’t. We made her shy, and a bit nervous. We find her behind Jack, but looking up to his bravery (and she has a crush on him, {He’s oblivious} so she’ll do something to jeapodize the whole team, and spend the next 5 pages apologizing profusely). Julio, all the while, seems to have fled (he always does that) but then he does something he always seems to do at the last minute, return with a weapon or a plan.
Your villains should be the same way as well. Not every villain is stone wall evil. Some are mediocre or just want a paycheck or think they’re evil until they meet Julio who teaches them how to laugh. Women speak, think and react different from men. Children will say things adults are afraid to. A good writer will make every character a distinct personality, while not forgetting that when they work as a team, they will play off of each other in time – but not at first.
Now about this story. If you recall any of your english lessons, you’ll remember there are several point of views (or POVs) to narrate from. Some comics – especially superhero ones- use first person perspective, which means we hear what the person is thinking. It’s told from their point of view, and we often get insight to the plan they’re formulating. A lot of “I’s” and “they”. A second hand perspective means that we see the action, but it’s you doing the work. This is a more difficult way to narrate, but if done well, the story will seem lifelike. I always enjoy making the writing first or third, and try to draw in second, placing the reader in the crowd, or at the crime scene. Third person is when the story is told from a neutral point. “Jack ran outside.” Jack isn’t telling the story. Third person won’t refer to themselves. No “I” in third person. Got it? This a VERY brief summary of perspective. I strongly recommend you look it up. Well? Go Look It Up!
If you add these two lessons together, you’ll find you’ll never tell a story the same way twice. Even the same story could be told numerous ways, because each person would have different motives, views on morality and even deeper pockets. Yes, wealth plays a part in how people think. Some people have street smarts but no social grace. Some can ace a test, but have no logical sense to deal with a broken water pipe. Factor in all you can, but in the same way that you yourself are composed of a lifetime of things, yet not all of it comes out every second, so too your characters should have restraint, and unless you specifically make them crazy or exaggerative, don’t go overboard with it.

Things to look at for character inspiration: Clothing catalogues; old comics/magazines, movies/animations; fashion shows, or just go to the park and hang out with a sketch pad. Don’t throw an idea away because it gives you difficulty within the first few seconds. Slide it away and do something else, then come back to it. Something made you stop, find out what it was and attack it.
Try to write out a dialogue between your two characters about something modern, like welfare reform or favorite brand of shampoo, keeping in mind all of the accents and things we mentioned. There’s no such thing as too much research and development.


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