On Characters #1

One of my favourite parts of writing anything is the planning that goes into the piece beforehand. This mainly takes the form of me imagining a world and characters and a load of exciting set pieces for them to be in before coming across my normal stumbling block of how to link the set pieces together without being boring, but that’s something I’ll deal with another time.

As part of trying to kick-start myself into producing something I’ve been dreaming up different settings and new characters (well, some rehashed old characters as well) to put in them. One of the exercises I’ve been using to do this is Chuck Wendig’s The Zero-Fuckery Quick-Create Guide To Kick-Ass Characters, the author’s quick-start method of getting inside the characters’ heads. Aside from answering a number of questions about a character’s personality (ignoring the normal height, weight, hair colour etc.) it also prompts you to write a 500 word flash piece about the character to ‘test drive’ them, and I’ve been busy doing this for a number of mine.

I highly recommend you read his article in full as the explanations he gives are far better than my summary below, but if you just want the basics here’s something you can copy into Dark Room (other text editors are available) and get started with:

Name: <the character’s name, duh>
Logline (v1):  <a one-sentence description of the character>
Problem: <what the character wants to achieve, what drives them to act>
Solution: <what the character believes the solution to their problem is>
Conflict: <why the character’s solution hasn’t worked yet>
Limitations: <personality traits the character has that make their life more difficult>
Complications: <external factors that affect the character and make their life more difficult>
Greatest Fear: <…their greatest fear>
Description: <a description of the character, max. 100 words>
Test Drive: <a 500 word flash piece to test out the character>
Logline (v2): <a one-sentence description of the character now you’ve thought them through to see how they’ve changed>

I will post some of the write-ups I’ve done for my characters soon.