I know my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing. My strength is characters. I’m sharing how I create one. I have a series of questions I ask, and I write it down. That gets it solid in my mind. Now. I might know that my hero likes a steak and eggs breakfast, but I won’t use it unless there is a breakfast scene. but knowing those things, creating those elements in a character’s back story will give you lots to work with for that moment of….”who is the best character for this story?”
My questions are in regular font, comments in italic.
Personal Information: Age, nationality, name, etc. You think is the end all and its not. We, as readers, could care less what they look like, make me care about them!
Job/Talent necessary for this story? What made them chose this profession?
I’m dealing with a virus in my current work. My heroine has to be a scientist or connected to that virus in some way.
What is their role in this story?
Their Goal, the reason they want it and the people or events that are stopping them. (That’s conflict)
What were they doing 24 hours ago? Why did they do it? What does character NOT know about the central conflict at the start? I like my characters coming in blind and knowing nothing about the current conflict. Makes for lots of learning it, and most importantly HOW they learn the info.
What’s the McGuffin? (the item they are searching for, if any) McGuffin is a Hitchcock term. Think Maltese Falcon or the Mission Impossible Rabbi’s Foot. You never learned what the latter actually was, did you?
Last vacation? Alone? Family, Siblings, and the relationship between them and character. These things make us who we are.
What have they experienced that left marks? Mental and Physical. Everyone has trauma, be it small or life altering. Now you’re thinking about how your character got to be who he or she is now. Those events have left stains.
How were they raised? Dad was a bully? Mom was a scientist involved in her discoveries. Get the meat of the past here.
Who do they owe for the good/bad traits in them? What are they? This goes to their past. I have a cleaning trait. I inherited that from my mom.
What is their secret (internal) fear, secret talent, & secret wish? What are they looking for, if anything, in their lives? This is something deep seeded and private. They don’t tell anyone and would rather not admit it to themselves. Or ….reverse it. Make it clear to all this character is possessed.
What they love about the opposite sex? What they hate about the opposite sex? Women stuff drives men crazy and men stuff make for divorce. <g>
Now its time to know the character in a normal, stress free situation. Favorite meal music, drink? Where did they take their last vacation? Bad habits? A favorite saying?
What pushes their buttons? Little and big ones. One of my little buttons is our dog cannot be in the house while we are having dinner. He stares at you. =) Think of larger buttons, like lying.
Who could they count on for back up in a tough situation? This would be the one person they would trust. Know WHY they’d trust as well as who. As a plot point, your heroine could put her turst in one person, and be betrayed for her own vulnerability to that person, or for the rose colored view of that character.
See how we are getting plot?
What would they be willing to die for? This, for a parent, is always the same, for my child. But those younger and without the thrill of parenting, think differently. Make certain you take that into account.
What’s their Achilles Heel? Could it bring them down, and in what way? This is critical as it is their breaking point. What would make them snap?
A personal conflict they struggle to hide or deal with? Is it part of their Achilles heel?
What’s missing from their lives? (They don’t have to know it’s missing)
What’s the 3 MAJOR tuning points for this character in this story? If I don’t know what a turning point is, then most of this won’t make sense and writing isn’t the career for you.=) They are major events in your story that change the direction of the story or for the character. For these events send the story in a new direction. They are very important but mostly, you need good solid reasons behind them.
Does this character have a conflict with anyone else? This is the conflict with the villain and his posse. The Villain and your hero, the authorities. All depends on the book. But you can’t have an interesting story without lots of conflict.
What are the Heavies (the bad guys) doing to this character? You need to know the bad guys just as well as your protagonist. They are the reason your character is having conflict so learn their reasons and past too.
My advice, do a characterization for each main character. I always do and get lots of plot to work with for the story.
I’ve created a Character Analysis that I’ve used for over 35 books. when I don’t I hit a wall. I’ve only done that once and learned.