Saturday, March 31, 2018

How I Create Characters

I was asked what the number one source is for my character inspiration ... and I realized it's kind of a cool process for me that I want to share with you guys.
I've never really thought about what inspires character creation in particular until that question came up. That's when I realized that it always starts with a setting. Always! A setting or a "what if" often strikes me first and the main characters always pop into my head after that. Faces, genders, their roles in the story ... a few basics like that. There are just given people that apparently have to accompany my ideas. 

I honestly have no idea how creating characters works for most people? But very rarely do I have to intentionally sit down and create a character because I have a huge hole. (Exception: Hayes Delaney in Behind the Act.)

It's really kind of neat to me that my brain associates the mood of a setting with a potential storyline. I think it's from there that the main character is born because their goals and arc have to fit the mood of the plot for there to be an actual plot ... When a main character's arc is a struggle, that's when I know the story really isn't ready to be written.

If you think about it, that odd spontaneous process is really rather cool. We judge people by their appearances all the time even though we shouldn't. Their mannerisms, attire, voice, smell ... everything points you to picturing them one way (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly). I guess what my brain does is exactly the opposite of that for creating characters.

I take mostly mental notes on people I see around me for reference ... but when a particular idea captures my mind, I generate a character that seems to fit based on my experience. Try as I might (I've found from personal experience), it's almost impossible to tweak the "rough draft" of that character if you will. I develop them, sure, but I get stuck on their hair color, personality, etc. pretty quickly. Changing those details just seems unnatural! At least for the main characters.

Of course, I don't generate thirty characters when I see a castle postcard. All my other little side characters appear once I've planned the story some and begin writing. Sometimes I can envision them beforehand? But not usually. I wouldn't say they all write themselves per se, but some do!

So when people compliment me on my characters, I don't really know what to say. I do work on making sure they're unique (not too cookie cutter), distinct from one another, and important to the story. But other than that? Everything kind of just happens and gets revised ... Not that it isn't hard work; it  just seems like half the work is automatic.

At least that's the way it worked for Martin Hospitality, Andora's Folly, and Behind the Act. I really, really need it to happen that way for Martin Crossroads when I begin writing it again April 1st. I think the lack of new characters in it, since it's a sequel, has been one of my major roadblocks.

I know what I'll be working on until I begin writing it again tomorrow. ;)

And in light of characters and it being Easter weekend and everything ... can we just take a moment to appreciate God's creativity in making people and how amazing it is that He died to save his world of protagonists-turned-antagonists? I mean ... wouldn't you die to save your characters even if they made bad choices? Even your villains?
Am I super crazy? How does your brain generate characters? Have an amazing Easter weekend and I'll see you in April!


  1. My brain generates characters all the time. Generally it's when I am not looking for them, they just appear (since I'm a discovery writer). Sometimes I even dream about them. AKA Aiden and Isobelle. Sometimes I just find I have a name on my lips and want to write them down.
    YES!!!! Thank you for the way you put that!!!!

    1. Yes when I'm not looking for them seems to be a theme xD Yes!! I dream a lot too ... tis odd.

      Glad you like it. Wasn't sure if it was going to be cryptic or not xD

  2. Interesting! I feel the same way -- although, of course, I don't really HAVE that many characters yet. I think they basically just come to me and happen "on their own" and I just sort of go with it. Though, like you said, we obviously have to work to polish them. But the core of the character sort of just springs into existence.

    Fun post, and happy Easter! He is risen! :) I like the way you put that, about Him dying to save protagonists-turned-antagonists.

    1. Yep mine kind of just evolve as well which is really refreshing tbh!

      Thank you! Happy Easter :)

  3. "...can we just take a moment to appreciate God's creativity in making people and how amazing it is that He died to save his world of protagonists-turned-antagonists? I mean ... wouldn't you die to save your characters even if they made bad choices? Even your villains?"

    ^^^^^ I absolutely adore the way you've worded that, Abi! It struck me in a way I've never thought about Christ's death before and I think it's going to resonate with me for a long time. Thank you for shedding a new light on this Easter celebration. <3

    I love how you create characters! I think it's wonderful and incredibly fascinating! I know I tend to get attached to my characters' first draft names and now I think I need to change some of my 2017 NaNo characters' names to fit with the setting/era/country and that makes me sad cause I love their current names.

    1. Awww thank you ^.^ I honestly just blurted that out at 1am and was like "does that make sense? I don't think that makes any sense. Oh well!" *publish* xD So I'm really glad it spoke to you so much!! :)

      Yes, I definitely get attached to the way things initially were too. Like once something gets fixed in mind as fitting the story there's really no going back without a lot of editing xD I was that way when I changed a character's name from Elise to Anneliese because I had an Elias (which was confusing). I was like ... no. xD Glad we can relate on that. I'm really glad you enjoyed it. :)

    2. *is jealous at how poetic and beautiful your words are at 1 AM**wishes I was that poetic and beautiful at 1 AM*

      Yes! I remember hearing about that. That was for Martin Hospitality, right? Also, guess who now owns a beautiful copy of Martin Hospitality and loves every single page of it???? *raises hand* THIS GIRL!!

  4. It's so cool how you think of setting first, Abi! I almost always think of characters first, or specific "what-if" questions to stimulate a plot. Thanks for sharing a bit of your process, and HAPPY EASTER TO YOU!

    (And no, I would absolutely NOT die for my characters, haha, though that is a good analogy. God is awesome!)

    1. Ohhh neat. I like hearing how other people's brains work xD I just ... honestly cannot think of an instance when a story fragment strikes me without a character popping into my head. It's a little weird actually.

      Hahahahaha xD I keep asking myself if I would now ... Maybe some of them?? Idk D:

      Happy Easter to you too!! Thanks ^.^

  5. Wow! Your process sounds a lot like mine! That's so cool!! I love when characters start unfolding in the story. Or when they jump out at you and demand to have a part in the story. That's my favorite.

    This is super awesome!! I loved learning about your process. It's fun to see how different writers develop their characters.

    1. Oh it's neat that it works similarly for us! I'm glad it was enjoyable. I agree--characters are the coolest!

  6. You say you're young and experienced, but you are a wise young woman of God. So much here that has merit and worthy of meditation. Loving it!


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