I am not sure what I can contribute to the idea of characters and how to create them. The only thing I know I could possible think of putting out there is my personal expectations of characters when I read and my process I go through creating characters.
I love being able to look back on how I use to write and where I am today, I actually just finished reading some old short stories I wrote back in High School. God they were bad, for me then they were good, but I have improved greatly since then. I bring them up because back then I hated to write dialogue, thinking it sound bad so I wrote more description to cover my flaws. Both were very bad, but back then my stories where about me and my best friend exposing Aliens existence to the world. There was no character because well it was me and I was so confused who I was back then I did not know how to do it.
The ironic thing that happened a few years later was I became more comfortable with dialogue then writing description. Why I am not sure, maybe I understood how in a fight dialogue would be short and to the point. Not sure. When I start to dive in to create characters I knew nothing about how to do that. It was mostly for my Anime/Manga series, I knew my characters in my head, but had no way of knowing how to translate them on to paper. So I found a program called Character Pro 4 and eventually 5. While I wanted more a program back then that I plug my ideas into and hit enter and the story formed itself, this program helped.
Character Pro used Enneagram Personalities for, based on what your character fell into of 9 different options gave you how they interact with each other. It was not until recently that talking to a Psychology major that this is not recognized as personality plan. Obviously some do but not most psychologists. To see the list of personality types click Here!
I liked the program because if you did not know much about personalities it gave you ideas of people who fit each one as well it would generate a personality for your character based on the selection and what you put in, it also gave you how they handle stress and approached work. I never used theirs because well they never fully fit my characters, but I used what it said and crafted my own. It helped, it also give you a background that I sometimes used but mostly I knew by then there background. While I was not all to happy with the limited selection of personalities it gave me enough to write my own personality. When I started working Marks of Eilira, I used the program and got some well depth characters, but I got away from the program and copied the sections into a word document and went from there. It was hard at times to come up with personalities without the questions that the program provided and if I was lost I would go use it to get some ideas. Eventually I got the hang of it and stopped with the program.
Facade Crusade series I added more to my profiles, I want to know their likes, actives, books, this came from using Facebook a lot, which added a depth to my characters switching my characters in Marks of Eilira was not easy but I know adds a little more to them.
My new method I took parts from Character pro and looking at Facebook about section I created my own template for character profiles. You can download my template Here
Using the profile template I start a folder with the characters name on it and move a copy of the template into the folder. If I do not have a name for my character, I use my name list file that has lots of names for boys and girls on it. I got this list from Character Pro, I however organized it so all the names were were broke down in alphabetic order not just randomly put in a list. You can get my name list here! You must have Excel to look at it. Guy and girls names are separate tabs. I also have a third tab where I put the names in use and what series they are in since I do not like using the same names over in my series unless they are unimportant characters who randomly show up. I also bold and make the names in use on the name tabs red so I do not forget they are in use.
With a name I come up with the last name and fill the top part of the profile template out. I give my character height, weight, body build, skin tone, religion. I come with email address based on their characters. Sometimes this comes after I have finished the rest of the profile. I even given them cell phone numbers. Whatever area code they live in and the use the movie number 555 and then last four numbers are random. The address of the characters are real address since I like my world to be realistic, while the inside of the house might not be like the real house I want the addresses to be real.
Activities and Interests are usually generic until I get to know my characters better. Sometimes I do know some of the actives and interest when I first start. Same goes for music, TV, Movies, and Books. If I find interesting quotes I will add them on but usually skip that if I don’t have one. Probably good quotes the character says in the book will be put here.
This is optional I like to fill it out so I have a written out description of the character as well as a picture. Sometimes things change when I start to write the novel and will make the changes here as I see fit.
This one is hard without questions and sometimes I like to go back to Character Pro for their questions I believe I have them written down somewhere but not sure. Usually by the time I get here I know the characters personality some, and writing what I know helps flesh it out more.
This takes a while to write, knowing how the kid was raise and their parents is not easy to come up with unless you really know the character. Some people ask their characters question in an interview. I tried that never worked for me, so I spend time thinking about it as I write it out and through out the days I might think of something and note it for a character. (Note: My mind is very good at keeping my series separate from each other so when I come up with a name of and idea I note it for a series I remember. I do write it down on my computer so because new ideas stay only for a short while before they just fade.)
For my main characters I like very in-depth backgrounds on them so I understand why they do what they do. If I am dealing with a fantasy world I cannot write this unless the world is greatly defined so I know places, events that happen in the world. In a real world but allows for fantasy things I can do this, but still like to know about my world more. In writing Marks of Eilira Book 1 I learned new information about the my villain and a major character while writing when their profiles were done. I had to go back and update them, so while I may have detail backstory for them, if it changes as I write the story I am okay with it.
I write out how the character deals with relationships with anyone, how close they are to people or not close. Then I take the characters of the story and list them below and write out how the characters interact with each other. Positive and Negative. As you write Characters you can copy and paste them because I add both points of view in this section not just the character’s who profile it is.
Future of Character Development
While my method for creating characters work, I am very interested in Personality Psychology and I am currently reading on the Myers-Briggs Personalities types. I want to understand what I can on personalities of people and use that as my bases for creating characters. While I am reading up on the Myers-Briggs I plan to look at several personalities types and then choose the one I like best. While it is a process to read through in-depth reports on them I have no problem doing it because of my personal interest and well the more realistic characters I can create the better.
This is my current method for creating characters, while I gave you access to my templates you need to decide how to create your own characters. For those who write by the seat of their pants, you should keep track of details of your character as you write and make your profile as you write not after because you will miss details and in different drafts you may lose things that you liked in earlier drafts. However, like I said you need to figure out what works for you and this is what works for me at the moment. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you go about creating characters in the comments below.