Creating Characters

Nov 22nd, 2010 | By | Category: The 'Verse

Visualizing the Character

Any serious fan would agree that a good story needs two basic components:  An interesting plot and believable characters.  Those characters might be utterly unrealistic, but they have to be believable.   The question isn’t “Could this person exist?” but rather “If this person existed, how would they act?”

Being a very visual person, I’ve always found it easier to write a character by first drawing  the character.  Throughout this site, you’ll see drawings and sketches of various characters (mostly from the Kymrian universe at this point).  These sketches–along with a data sheet listing important facts (height, weight, hair color, etc.) help me to visualize the character.    Sometimes, the character is inspired by someone I know.  Sometimes they’re inspired by a photo I’ve seen in a magazine or on a website.

In the former case, the challenge is to change the character enough so they’re not just a copy of the person you know (that can lead to a variety of problems–especially if you decide that character needs to do unsavory or impolite things to advance the story).  In the latter case, the challenge is to take a single image and create an entire person from what you see.    Characters need to be “complete” people–you have to know how they will react to pleasant situations, stressful situations, angry situations, tragic situations…  How do they laugh?  How do they cry?

A common trap for authors is to create a character to fill a place in the story (e.g. the helpful scientist or the drug dealer) and only create enough to fill the need.   In TV or movies, a good actor can take what’s given and fill in the background in order to make motivations and reactions more realistic and believable.  In written stories, there are no actors to help; the author needs to do it all.

In a collaborative environment such as the Trilobyte Project, other authors (and even fans) can give input and insight into the characters in order to flesh them out and make them more believable.  We’re already doing that.  Over in the forums, we’re posting “Season Zero” vignettes for Gemini Colony–introducing characters and showing some of the motivations for why they’re joining the adventure.  These vignettes are open for comment and criticism to help us gain better insight (and hopefully write better stories).

We’re also working on this behind the scenes.  Certain characters have already been selected for important roles in the plots of seasons 1 and 2.  The roles were the easy part… now we’re working on motivations, rationales, and reactions.

While there may not be a full story ready to roll, there’s a lot of work going into making it happen.

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