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wundayatta's avatar

When creating a character for a novel, what kinds of things do you think about?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) December 6th, 2012

Is there a check list you go through? If so, what is on it? How much back story do you create? What do you tell yourself, even if it never gets in the novel? Do make it all up, or start researching it? Are your characters based on people you know, or have you ever made up a character out of nothing?

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9 Answers

ETpro's avatar

How do they behave? Why do they behave in such a way. How much of their motivation are they in touch with. How do they look. What do I name them. Who are their friends. How much of their look is studied—a result of their choices in grooming or their effort, and how much is genes. It all has to work to support the plot.

Some characters are easy. You’re able to slide right into their shoes, so no research is needed. Others are not so accessible. Research may be the only way to craft a believable character the likes of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, M.D.

As noted in this question, no less a novelist than Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Character development is a major part of sticking to the possibilities. Even in fantasies or science fiction, readers have to believe your characters are real people and given the vagaries of the world you put them in, they would behave as you have them behaving.

DrBill's avatar

I once made a girl, Dusty, who had long flowing jet black hair, dark ebony eyes, a quite demur and a nose for finding trouble. All based on my cocker spaniel.

Unbroken's avatar

I have made characters because I couldn’t figure a person out before. Getting to nitty gritty as far as how they act respond think such as ETpro pointed helps me walk in their shoes for a min.
I usually create characters from people around me or that I know of, there is such a wide variety and seeing them live helps me envision them better but ultimately I do hold artistic license and use it, I like blending personalities or creating internal conflict.
There has been one case where I created a character I did not know. Thinking about it later I would say that character came from supressed things about me.

burntbonez's avatar

I don’t do this, but I’d figure out the character’s family. How many siblings of what sort. How did parents relate. What the character does. How old. What was childhood like. How character relates to others.

I think you could go on and on forever, creating backstory. I suspect there is a point when you don’t need to go any further. You know the character so well that you instantly know how it will react to any stimuli.

AshlynM's avatar

My list includes the main character’s name and age, names of friends and family members, if they have pets, enemies, what kind of house, town and neighborhood they live in, what school they go to (if any), if they have any romantic relationships.

zensky's avatar

I have yet to write the great Israeli novel but when I do it will be quite simple. In Journalism school we were taught to write what you know so I’d base it loosely on Mahmoud Achmedinijad.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It depends on the place they hold in the story. If it’s an important character, readers need to know why they are who they are, what motivates them, so they can get a clear picture in their head of who that person is.

Are you a writer W?! :)

wundayatta's avatar

Nope. Not a writer. As I always say, I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag. But I am interested in how people do this. I’m interested in tons of things, most of which I will never do.

KNOWITALL's avatar

HAHA, okay….I like to write but don’t set enough time aside for it, but I’ve researched a lot.

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