Thursday, April 26, 2012

World Building Series: Characters -- Part I

Good Afternoon Everyone!

Although I could go on (and on) about Language Construction within my World Building Series, I've decided to break away from it momentarily to discuss the most important area of writing: Characters.

Some may argue that it is the plot of the story that is the most important, and while it is definitely high on the list, I feel that the characters drive the plot and engross readers more so than the plot itself.  As a writer, I can attest that my characters usually write the story for me.  Their personalities and idiosyncrasies catapult the plot from Chapter One until the book's conclusion in a way that scene-writing/plotting almost seems like a waste of time (this is absolutely not the case, of course, but more on that in a future post).  It is for this reason that having relatable characters is crucial to your story's likability and success.

When a story idea forms in my mind, I take the time to jot down the basics of it and store it safely in a place where it can... ferment, for the lack of a better word.  It is while it is fermenting that I do the other important processes in pre-writing--and at the top of the list is character sketching/mapping.

Character sketching for me is not actually what the name suggests.  Try as I may, I am no artist (in the sketching/painting sense) and cannot draw for the life of me.  Instead, I answer a series of questions about a character's general physical appearance (gender, height/weight/build, age, hair & eye color, any outstanding and notable features).  I usually will use the general descriptions I have created and search through Google Images for photos of actors/actresses that fit the profile.  For me, having a physical image in front of me makes it easier to refer to while writing.  (Check out my Post on Pinterest for an example on how to organize your images).

After I've done the afore-mentioned, I will also answer questions about my characters intellectual and emotional qualities (intelligence level, skills, occupation, family life, religious beliefs, relationship status, et cetera).  Lastly, I answer any questions that pertain specifically to the character's direct (or for minor characters, indirect) influence on the plot.

Once I have a handful of characters mapped out, I usually let those ferment as well as I move on to the other aspects of pre-writing.  By the time I come back to them, something has inevitably always changed--so I go ahead and complete the edits then and there while the thoughts are fresh (note: I almost always save the original sketches, however, just in case I need to go back to them for whatever reason).

Personally, I make my own template and print them out on index cards, but there are many great resources on the internet for Character Sheets--pre-made templates for the types of questions I mentioned above.

Here is one example:
Source Credit: redsoxrock01 @ deviantArt

Well that's all for now, kiddos :)  Stay tuned for the next post in this series!

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