How does a writer craft a good character? Let us delve into the world of real ideas for fictional personalities we will never forget.
Madame Bovary, Severus Snape, Tyrion Lannister – sometimes the stories of protagonists shake us even more than our own; their fate can be more painful and real than reality itself. Just imagine the scores of readers who burst into bitter tears when Albus Dumbledore’s magic was forever snuffed out in the astronomy tower. And who was not still hoping for a positive end to Jean Valjean’s story up to the very last page?
Fact or fiction? Tips for fictional characters!
The more we are pondering over the idea itself, the more outlandish the concept of fiction appears in relation to characters. It is the authenticity in the brush we use when painting our characters that makes their stories so relatable and realistic. Where do authors find inspiration for their protagonists or antagonists, their heroes, anti-heroes and villains? We from novum publishing put real people under the microscope to reveal their secrets for the fictional characters of aspiring authors.
Setting: Imagine your main and supporting characters in their environment. Where do they live? Where do they work? Where do they eat lunch? Many character traits can already be derived from their habits. Even the occasional cliché is permitted, which is why Francois may very well be travelling across Brittany with a baguette in his bicycle basket.
Role: Although an occupation is not always born from passion, it may tell us quite a lot about a character. Archetypes and stereotypes make it easier for the reader to get to know the characters in your story. Although stereotypes are usually better avoided, they can also be strategically woven in with great care and finesse. Otherwise it might just happen that the reader considers the lead role of a police officer to be an authority figure, even though the job description and required discipline were intended to portray the exact opposite.
Looks: Outer appearances jog our imagination and provide clues as to the personality of your characters. Not only their gender but also their age and clothes might reveal many a trait or characteristic. Dyed hair in older individuals might be indicative of a little vanity, just as skin colour may refer to the origins of a person or the length of their fingernails to a certain state of hygiene. You might also consult a search engine to better build your characters. Look for pictures of real people and try to memorise their faces in all their details. What is their eye colour? How would you describe their skin, the shape of their lips, the dimples on their chins?
Behaviour: Instead of resorting to well-trodden adjectives, why not describe your character based on how they behave? Believe in your readers to have a little imagination! Try replacing a sentence like “Susanna was spontaneous” with a fuller picture, such as “Susanna boarded the clattering train without hesitation and could not wait to finally reach Prague.” This gives a little more colour and flavour to your character, while adding substance and depth to your overall plot. Moreover, a few quirks or peculiar attributes provide additional layers – our interest in a character is often sparked by precisely such an intriguing combination of oddities.
Research: Texts of depth and density are characterised by solid storylines. In-depth research is indispensable to any authentic content and character. A textbook example of this approach is found in John Irving’s masterpiece “The Cider House Rules”, in which he describes his characters, such as Homer Wels and his medical occupation, as if he had first studied gynaecology.
Name: Original names are the finishing touch to your imagination. Are you looking for new names or just the right ones? Try staying put and reading the credits after a film, browsing through a book of names or working with a good name generator.
Imagination: Your book is your very own creation and personal playground of creative freedom. When you develop new characters or events, steer clear of classic conventions and pour the entire wealth of your imagination into the storyline. Your protagonist does not necessarily have to be human, for example – the world of books is also populated by animals and mythical creatures. Do not limit yourself or your creativity when writing – the content of your book is up to you and you alone.
If your imagination still refuses to gear up after our jump start, try to think like an onion and approach your character one layer at a time. Everyone has a story to tell – both in real life and in fiction. You can always start with the story and then fill in fitting characters – you will see that all your character building will take care of itself.
Keep writing, keep typing!