I think as writers we pray for a foolproof formula when it comes to creating characters and plot, but the truth is there is no perfect plan. Although, I can share with you MY process. This might not work for everyone and that is okay. Hopefully there is one or two pieces of advice in this blurb that will help you or you can turn into your own.
So here is how I develop my characters:
I focus on my main character(s) and how they would fit into my plot. I normally know what kind of story I want to write (ya, fantasy, realistic fiction, etc.) before I start crafting. Even sometimes I will have my general plot ideas in mind before creating my characters. See I tend to write in 1st person, so before I know anything about my character, I will free write as if I am them. Normally, this doesn’t end up making it to the manuscript itself but it gets my juices flowing. During this free write I come up with a name, age, and even a broad or detailed description of their appearance. I try to find what their voice might be.
For example, I knew for my NaNoWriMo month I wanted to focus on redoing my realistic middle grade ages fiction and I needed to re-create my main character. So I just started writing what I think this middle school aged girl would sound like and as I created that voice I found things she would like, dislike, attitude, etc.
I WANT TO BE CLEAR THIS IS JUST TO START DEVELOPING. Sometimes things change and I will take my time honing in on her final voice in the text.
Next I start creating a profile of this character after my free write. I do this a few different ways:
- I write or type up a profile, with name, age, birthday, personality, interests, etc. It looks like a freaking FBI dossier.
- I will create a Pinterest board with the title of the story and then a section with the character’s name. So as I go through pinterest I can create a visual board for myself on what I think her hair looks like, what they would wear, interests, possible quotes I feel like would match them. Even search dialogue prompts to see if I find ones that match what I think their personality would be like.
- As I create their dossier, I would then start writing random scenes I think would be important in their life. Maybe even write up a short story about their history.
The point is I want to know my character inside and out so I don’t write out of character and ruin the story.
Now, if I have more than one MC, which in my novel I am writing next month (Nov. 2021), I made sure to repeat these steps for my three MCs. Then I would (have done this already) create scenes with the three interacting and analyze those scenes. I am looking for a voice for each of the MCs and making sure I am not blending them, but making them their own character.
See if you blend your characters together, you are going to lose what is special about each of them and your story will become boring.
So if all else fails and nothing in this short blurb speaks to you I hope you hear this. Make sure your characters have distinct voices or they will never make it past your own personal harddrive.
Good writing everyone!
PS. if you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, friend me – ashleydannie – is the name!