Characters… they ARE the story!
Bad characters and good plot? No one will remember your story or want to read it or care about whatever plot is going on. Great characters and average plot? How many books can you name where you fell in love with the character and could care less about the story. As long as you got to read their life, you’re all over it. (Me too)
I learned early that Characters make the story and if you slack, no one will read the book, let alone buy it. So for 20 years and 37 books my method of madness– know the character’s past.
We each are the sum of our life experiences. Each of us has childhood issues we still deal with, or traumas that have changed our views.
Personally, I’ve done some things the average person will never have the opportunity to do. Drive an Armored Personnel Carrier onto a beach? Rappel down a cliff to scuba dive in the East China Sea? Fire a 50 Caliber machine gun? Or move an entire household across the country ALONE.
Think about what you have done in your life, and then work it into a character.
Below is a list of questions to ask your character. Not yourself. You have to cop the attitude of someone who has say… lived without parents or had everything in the world at their fingertips and still think there is more to life than good schools and spending cash. Or a car from Daddy.
The writer has to get in the head of the character and respond according to their past. That’s what makes a good one.
Feel free to use them to make your own character analysis. I do one for character, especially the villain. He or She is the hero of their own story.
Personal Information: description of the character, basic stuff.
Job/Talent necessary for this story? What made them chose this profession?
What is their role in this story? The Goal, the motivation behind it, and the conflict. Who is stopping them?
What were they doing 24 hours ago? Why did they do it?
What does character NOT know about the central conflict at the start?
What’s the McGuffin? (That elusive thing they are all searching for, if any)
Where did they spend their last vacation? They go alone?
Family, Siblings, and the relationship? What have they experienced that left marks? Mental and Physical.
How were they raised? Some background here. (I was raised with a ‘pay it forward’ attitude, how about them?)
Who do they owe for the good/bad traits in them? What are they?
Secret fear, talent, & wish? What are they looking for, if anything, in their lives?
What they love about the opposite sex? What they hate about the opposite sex?
How is their goal connected to the hero/heroine?
Favorite meal music, drink? Bad habits? Favorite saying?
What pushes their buttons? Little and big ones.
Who could they count on for back up in a tough situation?
What would they be willing to die for?
What’s their Achilles Heel? Could it bring them down, and in what way?
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?
Does this character have a conflict with anyone else?
What are the Heavies (the bad guys)doing to this character?
There are more that you can ask your character but these are the basics for getting a feel for them. I always gain plot points to work in when I do this. Some, like Rhonda Pollero do this with soft ware (get ready for her plotting books coming out soon) I need the paper and pen, to sit away from the computer and all the trappings of a writer and just dive deep.
That’s my take. Any tips YOU do for creating characters we love and hate?