I come up with characters quickly. By the time I’ve imagined them, I usually know the main premise of their personality and what I hope to accomplish with them.
But there is more I need to know about a character than looks and main personality traits. Here is how I flesh them out into people with quirks and hobbies, habits and tastes.
Step One: Come up with the Basics
What the “basics” are varies. I might start with an appearance, a job, a personality, a mental disorder, anything. I think more often than not it is an appearance. I strongly recommend Pinterest for this if you don’t already have an idea.
Step Two: Figure out the Major Details
What is the character’s job? Who is their family? Who are their friends? Where do they live? The story or setting in which they exist determines most of this. If I am coming up with a medieval fantasy character, for example, I might look up common jobs in medieval Europe.
Step Three: Listen to Music and/or Look at Pictures
This step meshes with the next one. I might look at images relevant to the setting, image I picked to represent the character in my imagination, or items they might use. Listening to music is also surprisingly helpful. I just play a song, and imagine the character doing stuff. In short, I watch head movies. You can do these things at the same time or separately.
Step Four: Write from the Character’s Point of View
Even if the story is written in the third person or another character’s point of view, it is incredibly helpful to write something from that character’s perspective. Have them tell a story. Maybe it’s their backstory. Maybe it’s how they met the protagonist. Writing from their POV gives them a solid voice and personality.
Done? Now repeat the last two steps over and over and over. Your character will come to life, and might surprise you.
It is completely and utterly okay if your character’s beliefs, morals, and opinions differ wildly from yours. In fact, I encourage it.
I have characters whose opinions I find abhorrent, and yet I still love writing them. In fact, it might be a good exercise to come up with a few traits you despise and use them to make a character you actually like.
How do you make characters?