Character and Creature Development
from #1 best selling author
Janet Beasley / JLBCP CEO
One of the funnest things I enjoy doing while writing is discovering my characters. From their names to their quirks to their fine points it's amazing how they develop before my very eyes while writing.
Here's a quick list of 10 things I like to do to lay the ground work for my characters and creatures. Are these set in stone? Not at all - just a fun list I have created on my own to help me, and now I hope they'll help you.
1) What is the book's genre/theme - is it space, a western, nostalgic, modern, backwoods, northern, southern, happy, scary...you get the idea.
2) What is the ages of your character? Is he/she a kid, a teen, an adult, an elderly person? If creating creatures are they mammals, aquatic, or winged?
3) In what year(s) does the story take place? Is it going to be during the same time all through the book - or will some of the characters pop up long before or long after the real time of the story?
4) List their strong points. Are they an over-comer? Can they handle pressure and stress? Could they survive if lost in the woods? Are they able to greet each day with a smile? Are they a good leader and able to lead from the "back of the pack" to help others who are not as strong? Are they polite? Can they shoot a gun, a bow and arrow, or fight with their bare hands and win?
5) Quirks, soft spots, and pitfalls! What weird things do your characters or creatures seem to surprise you with? A slang term, chewing gum with their mouth open, skipping every third step. Are they scardy cats? Is your creature a biter with no teeth, or a growler with a very high pitch tone? Is your creature smelly, stubborn, or silly? Do the characters complain all of the time? Does everything have to happen their way? Do they act tough but really deep down inside are nothing more than a soft squishy teddy bear? Does your character like to poke fun at the less fortunate? Now I don't necessarily mention any of these quirks directly in the story, but rather do it through their actions. Also, keep in mind, we're developing them at this stage and are simply looking to find out how they might react in a situation.
6) Which ones, if any, of your characters have super powers, or outstanding human qualities? Can your creatures perform any kind of special magic that is exclusive to them?
7) List some of their family history...who (or what) would have been their parents? Do they have brothers or sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles? Do they know about them or not? Is your creature part of a pack or clan? Was it hatched, birthed, or created?
8) Appearance can be a great developmental tool. What color are the character's/creature's hair (scales or skin perhaps for creatures), and eyes? Would their hair length be long - short - medium? Is it styled or sloppy? Do they glow in the dark? How tall are they? How much do they weigh? Do they wear glasses, do they hate socks, do they prefer high heels-sneakers-or flip flops? Are they a jeans and t-shirt kind of person/alien/elf or elegant in style? Are they faddish or is comfort more an issue, do they wear shoes or no shoes, jewelry, hats, etc.? Is your creature stately, impressive, hideous, cute, or rugged?
9) Even more fun is determining their traits and mannerisms. Do your characters favor a logical trait or prefer to "shoot first and ask questions later?" Do they like their family and friends (if they have any) or are they a loner? When they eat do they slurp their food and drink or raise their pinkie high in the air sipping on wine and dining on caviar? Does your creature prefer chasing its next meal or having it served to them by humans? Does your creature have a nervous twitch that is common to its breed? Does your creature roar every time someone enters a certain room, or forest?
10) Last but not least - give them a name that best fits all of those things you've chosen from above. Because I write a lot of fantasy, I like to create names from base words. For instance - one of my favorite creatures is an equinarch: a friendly, small flying horse with butterfly wings. Hence, the first part of the creature, equi, was taken from the term equine, while the second half of the name was taken from the monarch butterfly...so we have an equinarch.
Now have some fun creating your characters and creatures, and don't be afraid to ask them questions point blank - you might be surprised just how quickly they will answer you! ;-)