What Character: A people first design.

Characters provide the foundation of good and memorable stories. They are relatable, if larger than life. They breathe into the story and they give the reader a reason to continue even if the plot is unexpected. I think the 1980-1990 version of a character where it is extremely constructed (thinking of television series here) as opposed to the late 90’s – early 2000’s reality tv shows where we lost a sense of dimensionality. Stories became about the bimbo and the stud. But there was no deeper meaning and less relatability. We wanted or craved stories that were unrealistic and impractical. Ah, disillusionment.  I think written works need to avoid making characters that are two-dimensional and without reality.

“The purpose of a character profile is twofold: to assist the writer in creating a character that is as lifelike as possible and to help with continuity issues in the story.” –The Lazy Scholar The Internet Writing Journal, June 1998

The most interesting advice I’ve seen is telling the writer to allow for the characters to fit within a cliché. But this cliché doesn’t last for long, because as soon as you add a personality or quirks, they become their own person and you begin to care about them. They become more important the more you get into their heads. You want to describe how they feel and what they are thinking, but you need to give them life.
Another tip that I found was to allow the character to live with knowing more about what they do and not what they like. (and characterization had some helpful links as well)

“We remember characters because they do interesting things. We forget characters whose favorite food is pizza.” – Joe Bunting

In addition to the above, I’m going to challenge myself to think about who my characters are by looking at three different points about them. Care of Michael Novak’s thoughts. This probably reflects more on Christian Theology, but I think it applies to writing and creating characters as well.
– Private Beliefs, what they think
– Public Beliefs, what they say (and mean in the moment)
– Core Beliefs, what they do

Wrap Up

  • Characters should reflect life
  • Characters will always be clichés, but should have a distinct personality
  • Characters have distinct personalities when they do interesting things
  • What characters do, defines them (more than what they think and more than what they say).

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