Part One: PERSONALITY
This is a copy of the post that I made, just to make it easier to find.
So today is the first (second?) in my series of character development posts, and will be discussing the personality of characters. I’m going to be using Killian a lot as an example in these posts, since he’s my newest character, and is still under a lot of development. But I will also be using a female, called Skye, who is rather highly developed as a character, back story and all, but she still gives me a lot of surprises when I’m writing with her.
Now, all of these posts are going to overlap, since it’s not really possible to completely separate out a character. Some things that I mention here, you might find works for other parts of the character, and vice versa. It’s all completely up to you. Of course, I must stress this first.
I AM AN AMATEUR WRITER. EVERYTHING IN THIS POST, AND THE SUCCEEDING ONES, IS JUST WHAT I’VE LEARNT IN THE PROCESS OF HAVING THE CHARACTERS IN MY BOOKS.
Alright, warning is done with, now onto the fun part.
Personally, I believe that the personality of the character is one of, if not the, most important aspects of characters. Without a personality, no one would want to read your book, and there would be no depth to the storyline. So what’s the best way to create a character’s personality? Well, there are a few different ways, like:
- Interactions with other characters
- This includes family, friends, and background information
Let’s go through them one by one, and again, they’re going to overlap. Characters are tricky things.
Music is a funny thing. It can be used to inspire characters, scenes, whole chapters, and sometimes, even whole books or series. If a single song, or soundtrack, can be found that seems to speak of a person or character to you, don’t ignore it!
Write down the music, the lyrics, or even what it’s called. For me, Killian like his pirate-y music. So I listen to a lot of Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks, as well as soundtracks of waves and tropical beach-type music. Of course, since he has a much darker side, I also listen to video game soundtracks that seem to fit him, and it all helps me to work out what he’s like.
Skye speaks to me more through music than anything else. She’s the sort of girl who enjoys the traditional folk songs and instruments, so I’ve used that as the basis of her quiet personality, and will listen to pieces that fit the mood and setting of the scene to try and make her fit more easily into them, even if she’s in a situation that she normally would find rather uncomfortable.
Pictures help a great deal! You’ll often find me trawling through Pinterest looking for various subjects. Scenes showing reactions, places, and actions/reactions between characters l all help develop your own character. Many of the images I find end up being in books because that’s what the character ends up doing in reaction to something else. And what makes it even better is that with an image right there in front of you, you can see exactly what you’re trying to describe, rather than making it up in your head as well as trying to find the words.
Again using Killian as my example, I have a few images of men climbing around ship’s rigging, which – since Killian has his own ship – is definitely something that he will do many times throughout the book. Having those images at hand will make it that much easier to image his particular way of climbing around. As well as the pictures, I’ll be having whatever music fits the mood playing as I write the scene.
Scenarios are great things to develop a character. If I put Killian into a fancy house with three prim and proper ladies, he’s probably not going to be all that comfortable, but if I put him on a boat in the middle of the oceans, he’s most likely going to have the time of his life. It’s things like this that will set up the basis of a personality. For instance, Skye is extremely uneasy in big/loud crowds, and I only discovered that by trying to write her into a busy school cafeteria. That didn’t end up happening (she ate lunch in the library with one friend instead), but in the process, I learned another thing about her and her personality.
I’m fully expecting the same to happen with Killian. Already, I know that he’s not a huge fan of being with women – apart from a certain night-time activity if he feels like it – and again, I only discovered this by writing a largely female-run ship land on his island. He certainly wasn’t happy.
Interactions with other characters
Including relationships, family, friends and background stories.
This overlaps quite a bit with the previous topic, but I will talk a bit more about background stories. While readers of the book or tale that you’re writing may never read, or even know of, them, back stories are fantastic tools for writers themselves. And often, the events in the back story will just happen to be part of any plot twist that happens in the book.
Skye’s back story, for instance, explains thoroughly and explicitly why she is terrified of crowds and loud noises. And while I won’t ever use her back story in the main book, the details that are in it will trickle through into her personality to give her more depth as a character.
In contrast, all I have for Killian’s back story is who marooned him his island in the first place. I don’t even know why he can control shadows the way he does, or how he decided to become a pirate, and how he got his ship, or his jackal friend (although I think he’s trying to tell me that she was on the island when he got there, weird as that may be.) And until I work all that out, I’m not going to try and write him into scenes yet.
Relationships and dialogue are the main things that will develop a character within a book. Dialogue is one of those fun things that you can use for sass, sarcasm, humour and absolute seriousness. It’s also one of the easiest ways to show a character’s personality, as well as being a main way to drive the story forward. Again using both Killian and Skye, Killian’s dialogue has shown me that he is utterly full of sass and has no regard for rules and authority, while Skye’s is quieter, and often more fearful than anything else. Both aspects of the characters will have stemmed from the back story.
Relationships are a little harder to do writing-wise, as it is very easy to try too hard to develop one too quickly. Already, I know that Killian is more of a one night stand sort of person, and makes acquaintances quite easily, while Skye appears to be more like me, and takes a while to warm up to people. Again, their back stories will have been a major contributor to their reaction to other people.
In short? Back stories are important. Don’t feel like you’re wasting your time writing them.
There are oodles of character templates and questionnaires rife around the internet. A quick google search brings up many pages of them. I’ve heard many people say that they’re very helpful, and who knows, they might be to those people. But they are the one thing that I don’t personally use. I haven’t used one for either Killian or Skye, and I don’t think I will. I’ve used them a couple of times, but for me, I find it easier and quicker to write out proper back stories than answer pages and pages of questions.
Wow, that’s a long post. Next week, I’ll be looking at describing what a character looks like, so stay tuned! Don’t forget, if there’s anything in particular that you think might be a good idea to include, just let me know.