Friday, June 26, 2009

Creating Characters

Character Creation. Google that and you'll get 13,200,000 results (in .32 seconds on my computer). That's amazing. All of those results don't pertain to writing, they have video game character creation, role playing games and so on.

I have probably done every character work-up sheet findable on the internet. Thing is, they don't help. Does it really matter what my character's favorite color is? How tall he is in feet and inches?

I get the ones that ask about deep, dark secrets. Greatest fears, those make sense. I have yet to ever use any of those answers to write. Most of the time, I forget my answers until I find the paper at the bottom of some pile.

I thought I prepared quite a bit before I started writing. In reality, I don't. I do write up all this information beforehand. It is supposed to help me get a feel for the characters, to know their story before I start writing. Once I start that first page, everything I've 'prepared' goes right out the window.

The only preparation tool that sticks around is my outlines. But even those are hardly glanced at unless I get stuck.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else do lots of prep work to never even glance at it? Or a better question, can anyone see a benefit to doing all that prep work that I can't?



  1. I know what you mean. Sometimes, I use small things that I've thought up, but usually, I do the thinking and figuring as I go along.I used to write favorite colors, and hair and eye colors and height (mostly so I knew the relation between characters if they embraced), but I've done it less and less..and it just comes out in the writing without having to prethink it all.

    When it comes to plot though, I really like having my outline nearby. It doesn't mean I always stick to it, but I use it as a crutch sometimes because in a lot of cases, I've spent a long time figuring out what I want to happen next and how to get there. I'm sometimes too involved in plotting that I delay writing the book. But lately, a good friend of mine has lit a fire under me and forced me (in all the best ways possible) to just put down that blasted outline and write!

  2. I do a ton of prep work and rarely glance at it. I think it helps turn the wheels in my brain and I reference it once and again.

  3. Glad to hear it's not just me.

    I love finding old notes. Half the time I get new ideas from the old stuff I never used. :D

  4. I do almost know character prep work, but I'm not saying that's the way to go...when I work with others on writing, I tell them they should know things like what the character eats for breakfast, even though that'll never show up in the book.
    The risk with doing A LOT of prep work, I think, is that you're then tempted to put things in the book that don't really need to be there.
    Good luck!

  5. When I start thinking of a story I write down every shred of an idea that I have. But I really get to know my characters as I write about them. Sometimes when I get stuck I go back and try to figure out what would motivate them to act in a certain way and then those character sheets can be helpful. I've never been able to do all the prep work up front because when I start I get so excited and I just want to write!

  6. When I first started writing, I had a vague idea of where I was going, and maybe an ending. That style is referred to by some as seat-of-your-pants writing. Mant authors like it.

    Now that I am writing more realistic novels rather than fantasy, I find I must do scads of research. Many ideas I use in the novel come out of that research.

    I make notes regarding my characters, and now I rough out the major parts of the book. When and where I get my best writing, though, is after doing all that preparation, I turn my muse and imagination loose and the story flows!

  7. For me, the plot always comes before the characters and I base them on whatever the plot requires.
    I *do* have a sheet that tells me everything I need to know about the major players but I fill it out as I go. I do it more to remember them more than anything else. (Usually as I'm starting the story, before I really get to know them.)