Bio (NAME, traits, desires, fears, habits) Give a bad trait to a good character, a good trait to a bad character, and voila, round! (The more you breathe full life into your character, the more s/he can help you with your creative tasks.) Know the character so well that it is not a question of writing her/him because it is a good idea to do it, not because it is a formula to succeed, not because you want to, but because you HAVE to. The character won’t stand for anything less. (Use photos; listen; observe;)
Make your main character attractive (loveable, likable, pitiable, capable of identification). Other round characters will have to be interesting in one way or another. Flat characters have to get the cattle to Abilene.
(If you want to write genre fiction, take the story into a situation that other people only dream of attaining; make your character into a celebrity, a star of some sort, just so that readers can fantasize about fast cars and champagne, and cheering crowds as they read (this is not essential for character creation but it does help in gaining interest in the characters you create)).
Get your main character into a Beyond-ho-hum Situation (get your character into trouble (=change and imbalance), and then, maybe get her out – or give her a challenge (which makes its own trouble) or put your character into conflict with another round character.
Definition of a round character: one for whom, when you pull strings, nothing happens because that character is pulling her own strings! You can drop her in a difficult or impossible situation, but it is her devices that get her out of it.
Examples of Paul, Vinnie, and Carl
By discovering the character and his needs and fears, you could create the conflict. But you could also discover the compelling parts of the character that made him likable, loveable, capable of identification. Vinnie needed attention, love, respect . . . and money. Carl needed to get back on his feet, get a job and be a leveling influence in people’s conflicts. Paul needed to write poetry and, to some extent, gain recognition; most of all, Paul needed protection from abuse by bullies. Vinnie’s needs and fears were greatest. Therefore, he would be the main character.
Characters tell YOU what they fear, what they need.
You then manipulate the situation to take full advantage.
Imagine Vinnie in a set up in which a woman falls in love with him, he gets a big gig as a drummer in a rock band; he becomes a famous disk jockey-talk show host, buys a house, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Imagine Carl getting a job, cosmetic surgery, becoming a successful businessman, etc.
Imagine Paul meeting a writing instructor in a burger king on his way to a literary conference, being invited to tag along, and becoming an instant darling of the literati.
Someone has said that the formula is: one desire, one internal problem and at least two external obstacles, a romantic interest, a villain – Shake, and bake.
As F. Scott F. said: Character is plot.
Writing memorable characters! Wendy Laing
Try this exercise to help you develop you character!
This exercise is a visualization task. Write a name, any name that pops into your head, in the top left- hand corner of a sheet of paper. Now close your eyes and see the name on the white background. Now imagine that this is a nametag on a piece of clothing. Once you can see this garment clearly, visualize the person wearing this garment. Now follow them as they move along the street. How do they walk? Do they stride confidently, are they hesitant? What do they look like? Follow them into the place they call home. What is it like? Are there other people there? What’s the furniture like, the atmosphere? Put on the character’s clothes; slip inside their skin and into their mind! How do they see the world? What do they most want? What do they fear?
Come back from this journey, and write down your impressions of the character. You may produce only one character or several. The choice is yours. Remember to show not tell! You want your readers to become involved, to fear, to laugh, to cry, and above all experience what your character(s) feel. Above all enjoy and have fun creating!