If you ask a writer what their favorite part of writing is, you’ll get a lot of different answers. Some like to write witty dialogue and wordy exchanges. Others like to create well-detailed worlds. There are even those who just like to make their characters beat the hell out of each other in intense action sequences.
Me personally? I’m all about characters!
Today, I want to give you guys a little peek into my creative process. I’ll break down one of my characters (who some of you may be familiar with by now) and the process I undertook in making them. I hope this doesn’t come across as some kind of an ego trip because that is far from my intention. I’m doing this to take a little break from analyzing characters.
Now, remember: this is not a definitive guide on how to write characters. Every writer will have their own approach to crafting a character. This is my personal process. Feel free to share your own methods with me! It’s always fun to see how other writers tackle their processes!
Now, if you’ve read any of my other character analysis articles, then you should be familiar with the four building blocks of a character. These are the Wound, the Want, the Need, and the Lie. These four points are essential, at least for me, in guiding a character’s arc across the story. Better yet, these blocks, especially the Wound, can go a long way in defining a character’s personality. So naturally, when I’m sitting down to write a new character, I start with these four blocks.
First, I start off with the Wound. This is the most important in my process, as it helps define the other three building blocks and, as I mentioned earlier, the character’s personality. Plus, this is often the block that allows for the most creativity.
How best can I make this character suffer? That is the essential question that I tackle first and foremost. Followed immediately by ‘How does this suffering affect their personality, wants and needs?’
For example, let’s use Anna Ironchase from my web-novel, Energia: Titans of Verità. There will be mild spoilers (in case you care), so be warned. If you want to experience the story as blindly as possible (so that you may properly tear the thing apart), then please check out the following link. Don’t worry; I won’t be mad if you don’t click it.
Anyways, let’s discuss Anna Ironchase. Her wound is established in the first chapter: when she was young, her mother died in a mysterious accident in the wilds of the alien world Verità. But she didn’t believe that her mother, an alien-slaying badass, would be killed by a simple accident. So rather than being sad and moving on, Anna made it her life’s work to dispel the mystery surrounding her mother’s death. Unfortunately, everyone around her is convinced that she’s just chasing ghosts and that the accident was just that.
By starting with Anna’s wound, I found it easier to branch off and create her want. Her mother died mysteriously, so she wants to find out the truth behind it. Then, considering the obstacles that would stand in the way of that goal (people being convinced it was an accident, the official records being kept secret by those in power, so on), I could give her backstory and personality greater shape.
In order to find the truth behind her mother’s death, Anna had to dig through official records, from both the government and the elite force Order. Through her youth, she would often break the rules/law by going places she shouldn’t be and doing things she shouldn’t do in order to achieve her goal. Through this life of mischief, she’s developed a reckless personality, which goes at odds with her intelligence. She also has trust issues, due entirely to everyone constantly working against her goals, so she hs become entirely self-dependent. Unless she has no other choice, she refuses to work with others.
So far, by crafting the wound, I’ve managed to quickly create the want, as well as her backstory and personality. From here, I can easily craft Anna’s lie, as well as her need.
Her lie goes back to her trust-issues and her self-confidence. She firmly believes that a man can, in fact, be an island. Her belief is that she doesn’t need help from anyone and that, in fact, having help would ultimately be more detrimental. The few times she does work with others is entirely for the purpose of furthering her own goals, and she’ll only do it when she has no other choice.
Simply put: she has no want of friends. But she does have need of them.
In order to achieve her goals, Anna needs people to help her. She needs allies that she can not only trust but that she can lean on with no fear. Her trust issues are what is holding her back.
With that, we have a complete character. My process is a domino effect, where one point of the character seamlessly leads to the next, much like a story itself. The wound leads to the want, both of which define the character’s personality, which then, in turn, dictates the character’s lie, which forges that character’s need. I then give the character an appearance, keeping the backstory in mind (Anna has many scars due to her various law-breaking escapades in her youth, which often got her into trouble) while designing it, and boom! That character is set and ready to go!
Then I just need to repeat the process over and over until I have the full cast. And then I can get into writing the story. And that’s all after I do my world-building!
This is the process I utilize for any character writing. Whether I’m making a character for a story or an NPC for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, this is my go-to outline for any character. I hope you enjoyed that and that you’ll share your own creative processes with me in the comments! Maybe you have a more efficient method than my own! Either way, I have completed my true goal with this post.
Write a really long advertisement for my web novel. If that isn’t good marketing, then I can’t say I’m surprised! Happy Thanksgiving!