Creating Characters

15 August 2019



Hello Readers & Friends,

Today I wanted to share any tips I have for writing strong characters.

When I did the first draft of Enmity, my characters were very weak. It was my first book and story and I hadn't really thought to make them 3-dimensional. My editor taught me so much about writing and building my characters up, and it made such a difference. I took her advice when writing A Girl Called Whisper and I think Cooper and Whisper are the strongest characters I have written to date. I hope this post will help any of you with brainstorming and writing!

Coming up with the basics.

I draw inspiration from so many places for my characters. I take little quirks, habits or beliefs from my friends and merge them together to create a whole new person a lot of the time. Sometimes I'll see people walking past me on the street and make up where they're going and why, and it will spiral into a whole new character idea.
Same with pictures - I'll be scrolling through Instagram and see a picture of someone I find interesting and save it down into a Character folder I have where I build up a personality around their look. Coming up with the basis for my characters is one of my favourite things about story planning.


I wanted to share with you a moment I had just this week. I was on the tube and looked up and opposite me were four girls, none of whom knew each other. What struck me was how different they all were, from what they were wearing to how they were sat. Their legs alone told such a huge story about who they were! I ended up snapping a sneaky photograph and on my walk to work I began to wonder about who these four girls were, where they were heading and why. Their characters came to me and then I started wondering about what would happen if they never reached their destination. A whole story idea came to me which I wrote down as soon as I got into work. And it was all based on just looking up and seeing these four sets of legs!


So my biggest idea for coming up with the basics is to open your eyes and question everything. Let the people around you inspire you. Read them for all their stereotypes and then break those stereotypes away to make them unexpected and interesting.

 

Moodboarding & Visuals.

Once I have the basics down, I'll moodboard. I use Pinterest and WeHeartIt for this, but I'll start building up an idea of who my character is. What do they wear, where do they shop, what do they put in their hair? What does their bedroom look like? What do they carry in their bag? I think about all of this and put them together to form an overview of a person.
If you want to practice, make one for yourself first! Create a moodboard that gives your friends a snapshot of who you are.
This is mine, and I made one for my two main characters from AGCW here. 



If you have budget you can also find artists on Instagram or Fiverr and give them a description of a character. Let them design your character for you and bring it to life in a way you may not have imagined before. I did this with my first book, Enmity, which you can see here.


Their Voice.

The voice is something that can really make or break a character. The first time I read a really strong, defined voice was Holden Caulfield  Catcher in the Rye. It really stuck out. Then it happened again, reading Looking For Alaska. Every character, Alaska, Pudge and The Colonel all had such distinct and strong voices.
The last book I read where I loved the voice and dialogue was The Hate U Give.
Think about your character's dialect and lexicon. Where are they from, how did they grow up, where did they go to school and how has this affected how they speak?
This was something I thought about a lot in AGCW, because I wanted Cooper to sound more introverted and educated, whilst Whisper was much more urban and streetwise.

Getting 3-Dimensional

The best piece of advice my editor gave me was to always make sure each character's goal is center-front, and don't forget it. When I wrote and finished Amity, Enmity's sequel, the main reason the story didnt' work was because I had written Maia without a goal, and she was aimless throughout the story. This is why Amity was scrapped, and is now being entirely re-plotted. (Sorry!)

Thinking about all the character backgrounds, even if they don't come up in the story at all, will really help when thinking about how they react to situations. Everyone reacts differently.
For example, Cooper would clench his fists when nervous, Whisper would chew her lip, and Prince would smoke. Everyone has their differences and it's important to think about where they've come from.
Body language is just as important when making sure your character writing is 3-dimensional.
Here is a character worksheet I found on Pinterest which helps when thinking about your character goals.



I hope this helped. Happy writing!

Love,
C x 


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