Hi everyone! Briana here. I'm still getting settled in my new place, so today's blog post comes from the lovely Sarina Langer, a dear friend and one of my editing clients. I'll be back with a brand-new vlog on Friday. Enjoy!
Character creation is one of my favourite parts when I plot a new WIP. It's a bit like meeting new people for the first time, wouldn't you say?
Intriguing, relatable characters ensure your readers will be invested until the very end—but how do you rock your character creation?
Today, I'll share some of my character creation secrets with you! I even brought you a present ;)
Strengths and Weaknesses
You've probably already heard this a hundred times, right? The reason I'm including it anyway is because it needs to be exploited until there's nothing left.
You can go easy—your MC's strength could be that she's an excellent archer, and her weakness could be spiders. (I know I relate to the latter)
Or, you can make it a little more complicated. Your MC's strength (let's call her Sara) could be unwavering loyalty to her brother and optimism even in the darkest situations.
Her weakness could be the memory of her parents dying, or a hatred for killing. Remember her strength being that she's good with a bow? A weapon? CONFLICT
The more complicated your characters are, the more your readers will fall in love. Your readers are just as complicated—all humans are—and we love seeing ourselves in fictional characters!
Wants and Fears
So, our girl Sara has seen her parents die and now hunts for dinner with a bow to keep herself and her brother alive. Losing her brother is a natural fear, but what other fears might this attachment cause?
Seeing someone else die?
Returning to her childhood home?
Losing the necklace her mother left her?
Sara's wants can be simple: survival. But what does her survival look like? Does she want to make a new life somewhere? Does she want to stay on the move? What does she want for her brother?
How does she fear she might fail?
And, now that you know all that...
Your character's knowledge vs. the reader's
It's tempting to write something like 'Karen, who was Sara's mum but died when Sara was ten, was still in Sara's memories' because the reader needs to know, right? They do, but Sara wouldn't think this. Sara knows who Karen was. Sara knows how Karen died.
She wouldn't think 'Karen, my mother who died when I was ten', she'd think 'Mum'.
So, unless someone asks her directly, she'd have no reason to be this detailed. Honestly, she'd probably try to forget about it. We've just decided she's seen her parents die, after all—pretty traumatising!
Your reader definitely needs to know, but in your character's own time. It’s whenever your character is ready—not when you are ready, or when your reader might be ready.
Take your sweet time introducing it
You don't introduce yourself to someone new by saying 'Hi, I'm Sara, I watched my parents die six years ago so I'm depressed and protect my brother because he's all I have left. I learned how to use a bow because I need to keep us fed and alive, but I kinda hate killing people and animals. I'm just trying to survive, you know?'
You'd be reserved. You'd say 'I'm Sara.' and hope this person you've just met moves on. No one ever asks if you have parents, so this new character wouldn't either unless there's a good reason—and giving your reader that information isn't it.
Feed your readers info slowly. Let them get to know your characters like they would a real person.
If in doubt, ask yourself: does my character say this to teach the reader something, or because it fits with the plot, pacing, and their personality?
Have a freebie!
To help you create believable characters, Briana and I have attached a downloadable mini character questionnaire for you. It's my own version, and I use this myself for every character I create. There's room for a picture or two of your character, and it should help you create believable characters without overdoing it (:
How do you create your characters? Do you have a method, or is there something you struggle with every time? I'll stick around for a while, so ask away!