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Bob Nailor

Creating A Character

Creating a character for your story can be somewhat daunting but if you break it down into segments, or steps, it becomes a little easier. Depending on how "The Muse" strikes you, these segments are inter-changeable.

Create The Appearance
The character is in your mind, you can see him, her or it. Take pen in hand and start to write. Put down descriptions of height, weight, eye color, hair color, clothing or if not wearing any, what covering there is such as skin, fur, scales, etc. Are there teeth or fangs? Are there fingernails? Chewed? Highly polished? Like claws? What is the texture of the hair?Get as many physical properties described of this character. Did you catch the caveat? Physical properties. We only want what the character looks like. If you wish, perhaps you've seen a picture of someone or something very similar to match your idea. Go get it and pin it up so you can see it. If it is digital (on the Internet) then attempt to save it to your hard drive for future reference.

Detail the Personality
Every character has a personality. Even the mindless, drooling monster has a personality that you must bring forth for the reader to see and understand. Yes, your reader needs to connect with the character and understand its reason for being. The walk-on butler has a purpose and a personality as he struts across the page and delivers the message of doom.

To make the process of tracking the personalities of your character a wee bit easier, use a sheet of paper and create two columns. One is labeled: Good, the other: Bad. Now list the different personalities of your character. Just remember, villains never truly see themselves as evil only in campy movies. A bully is aggressive, not evil. In that same vein of thought, don't make your hero perfect again, this only happens in campy situations. Even Superman has a kryptonite weakness. As you add traits and personalities to your character, think carefully and use a ratio of 60/40. If the character is a "bad" person, up the "bad" side to 60. If the person is good, make sure the "good" side is the 60 percent. Of course, you can't have each character on the 60/40 ratio so you should ration these percentages from 90/10 to 60/40. Think back on your friends and you'll suddenly realize that each of you were not equal on the percentages. Some of your friends were the 90/10 good to the 60/40 bad or 50/50 bad. Maybe it was you who was the 50/50 ratio.

Name Your Character
The name you assign your character is critical. It reflects back on the character. Do you see Louis as the hero? Is Cindy the blonde bombshell who needs protected? Tim might play football but he isn't the star quarterback; that would be Bronson. Molly might be a cheerleader but Kelly or Cherise is the lead cheerleader. Pedro might be a guide on the Amazon River but he won't be the pilot of a jet fighter plane. Does Anne sound like a woman who could kill a drug lord? Maybe Kelsey could do it. Damian would be her love interest, not Ralph. I'm sure Ralph is a great guy but the name doesn't conjure the image you're attempting to project. Select carefully and use a baby list to choose the name you want.

The above sequences don't have to be in that particular order. Maybe you heard a name, jotted it down and now want to use it in a story. Take the name, conjure up the image of the character and build the personality to go with the name.

Build the character, flesh it out. You've created the persona, now build the background. Where did the character live? What is the occupation? Education? Single or married? Develop the character so you know almost everything that person would do, say and breathe. Become that character, let its essence flow through you.

Now, let the character loose in your story and be amazed at what he, she or it will do. You know your character and you must let the reader learn all the nuances of this new persona you've created. If you've done your job properly, the persona will take over the tale and you will find yourself typing faster than you ever thought possible and discover the story writes itself. That's when the fun begins.

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Onisha Ellis
For me, a book is all about the characters. I can read and enjoy a book with no overt action and totally love it because the characters are so well written.
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Lisa Jey Davis
I see you chose to write on characters again! After reading your blog post, I can see why! Now, if only I wrote fiction!!! I plan to in the future, so I'll be knocking on your door for these tips when that time comes! Thanks for all the great writing tips Bob!
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