They say Character is everything. A good character drives the story forward, almost telling the writer where to go next. So the creation of a character is something every writing deals with. Here’s a look into the process I go through when creating my cast of characters for a story.
1. What is the character’s function in the story?
Is this the main character? A major – but not main- Character? Good guy or bad guy? I tend to spend a bit more time getting to know the main characters then a minor or one scene character. Some can just be a generic title. “The salesclerk”, “the Traffic cop”, “the waitress” can all be generic – however –
1A. If a minor character, how minor, for how long?
Let’s take, for example, a servant girl I had written in to serve as a minor obstacle for the main characters in my story “Sidestepping Home”. I gave her a name because she would appear in at least two scenes, or chapters, of the book. So I thought.
I gave what I thought would be a minor twist and suddenly found my main characters with a new servant girl. The minor obstacle had been elevated to almost sidekick status. So instead of writing about a party of three in the household, I now had a foursome. And the servant girl became important for the end of the novel.
2. What do they do in the story? What’s their “job”?
The Hero has a job. What is it? Knowing their job helps you to figure out their breadth of knowledge. An accountant may not know how to hot-wire a car, but a spy could hot-wire a car and be lousy when it comes time to do their expense reports.
- What’s their backstory for the last two months??
I don’t need to know who their first pet was, what their Grandparents did (unless it’s crucial to the story), or the name of the first person they kissed. I do want to know what’s happening NOW in their lives, what type of mindset and mood they’re currently in. It gives me a jumping point in the story for them.
- What’s their motivation in the story? Is it to woo the fair maiden? Avenge a great wrong? And why is it important to them?
Once I have these four things, I can flesh out other details as needed, starting with
5 & 6. What’s their name and age?
As I said above, I usually take my time with my main characters. The name of the character sometimes being most important, as it is something you’ll be writing down a lot during the course of your story.
Age becomes important because it also helps set how much knowledge they may know, as well as social attitudes.
If I know their approximate age, I can find the top 25 names for their birth year (assuming you know the current year your story is taking place.) by using Google or another search engine. Last names can be more difficult. But there I have a resource –
This is a great site, as it can give you names from around the globe, as well as for names for fairy, myth, biblical, or fantasy. One of the best features it the random name generator, where with a few clicks will deliver you a name. Don’t like it? Click “generate another”. You can even decide you like a first name, then generate another and take the last name you decide upon. A great writers resource.
Speaking of resources, check out Popcornbytes on Pinterest. I have writing and writing research boards with many articles for your perusal, and of course, there’s the
Popcornbytes Concession Stand on Amazon!
*to be fair - Popcornbytes is my twitter handle, as well as wordpress name.
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