People plotting: Creating unique characters – Part one

c97ff168b28a89906a2c040f1a18ae0cLet’s imagine that you’ve thought of a great premise for a story and even crafted a general plot. You then need to develop some characters to inhabit the world you’re intending to create. So where do ideas for characters come from? How do successful authors invent people for their stories, those imaginary men, women, children, and even animals that are a perfect fit for the story?

Let’s be honest, ideas for characters can come from just about anywhere – on the train, street, plane, TV, movies, pictures and photographs, historical figures, or they can even be a composite of different people such as friends, family, neighbours, or work colleagues.

However, if you’ve described a person in terms of their height, weight, general body type, hair and eye colour, age and clothing, this isn’t really creating a character. All you have are the mere basics without any real meaning. This might as well be a life-size cardboard cutout rather than a character that appears to be a real person. Characters have to come alive so that the reader will identify with them.

It also helps if the character is grounded in reality and has friends and family, pets, homework, annoying siblings, parents and grandparents, likes and dislikes, and so on. The people in the story might embark on extraordinary adventures but if they have an ordinary life it makes them more plausible to the reader. Harry Potter’s school at Hogwarts may not be like the kind of educational institution that most kids attend but the author made Harry a less than perfect student that struggles in certain classes. Most children don’t attend boarding schools where they only go home in the winter or summer holidays and they certainly don’t aren’t educated in the ways of magic. Yet Harry’s struggles make him more authentic as a character.

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