Obsessive character creation

Seen on a walk while developing a character for my short fiction

Photo of a chipmunk the author took while walking in his hometown.

In my last post I mentioned that I often develop characters while walking. It relaxes me and allows me to focus without the distractions of my writing space (commonly referred to as my children). I have been working on character development for several short stories, but while walking today I came upon the idea for a brand new tale, complete with plot, ending, and all the “round” characters.

That is one thing I love about a good story, it all seems to fall together. I am a firm subscriber to the school of thought that says a great character drives a story better than a good plot, making it more believable. That isn’t to say plot and setting aren’t important, just that I feel a great character can almost tell the story simply in their personality.

Personally I probably spend too much time on character development for short 5,000-8,000 word fictions. I really get into it, picturing the favorite meals, nervous habits, what attracts them to the significant other/opposite sex, and anything I else I can brainstorm.

I want to make this blog something you can use to inspiration and information, so I thought I’d share one of the templates I made for plotting a character. I divide my list into two sections, essentials and modifiers. The essentials are:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Physical Description
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Strengths
  • Faults
  • Fears

Additionally I like to brainstorm the following characteristics, more for reference than necessity. You may have others, or find some of these less than useful, but here is my list as a guideline:

  • Hobbies (may be essential depending on prevalence to story)
  • Past Regrets
  • Secrets
  • Nervous “tics”
  • body language
  • Tattoos/piercings
  • Temperament

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...

There is one part of character creation that I feel like I am not too good at or very fond of – naming the character. In desperation I have even thumbed through the phone book and Frankenstein’d a name out of pieces of various entries.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on character development. What do you like, what is difficult, and what spurs you on?

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One thought on “Obsessive character creation

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