Creating a cast of characters with enough depth, personality, and complexity to be believable without overwhelming yourself - and your readers - is one of the most difficult tasks of writing. How do you develop a lead that your readers will care about, invest in, and love (or hate!) enough to want to read about them?
Of course, you don’t want them to be too shallow, or one dimensional - unless, that’s like, their “thing” and their lack of growth and dynamic personality is intentional.
And you don’t want them to be “too perfect.” No one wants a Mary Sue or Gary Stu. But they can be special, right? I mean, maybe their unprecedented something-or-other is what the whole story is about in the first place.
(Do the authors of these articles have any credibility? Who knows!)
Author Randy Ribay wrote an article about the topic of character creation that really resonated with me for a couple of reasons. You can read his words directly here.
Now, it’s short, but he offers a few right-to-the-point questions for you to ask yourself about the people you are populating your fictional world with. One thing he said about character writing that caught my attention is that personality profiles and character sheets don’t really work for him.
For some people, that’s the standard. Like our PRSFNE character sheets, it can sometimes be very helpful to get a little profile put together to help you begin to frame the personality and lifestyle of your characters.
Who are they? Where did they come from? Who do they know? These kinds of questions will help you build the skeleton of that person’s perspective, their frame of view, and give you some insight about what kinds of decisions they might make and how they react to different situations that you intend to put them in.
A tip - I cannot for the life of me remember who said it, or when I heard it, but it works - that I have been using for years is this: steal. There are seven billion humans on the face of this Earth, each with distinct and sometimes even interesting personalities. If creating a person from thin air isn’t your thing, or if you’re struggling, use someone you know. For every character you create, put the heart of a real person inside them.
What are some useful tricks you use when you’re trying to come up with a believable cast of characters for your work? What are some struggles you face?
If you’re struggling, or feeling brave and want to inspire everyone, comment below with an example of a character you’ve created that did/didn’t work well or that you were proud of.
Looking forward to this with all of you!