One of the most fascinating aspects of writing for me is character creation. I'm a character writer so I look for books that are character driven (don't get me wrong, they need to have a fair amount of plot in them too). My favorite part about writing is the character creation process. It's the reason why I think up so many new ideas and what makes me want to stick with a novel the entire time. I love the characters and I want to see them through to the finish.
I always start with a loose premise. This allows me to know what kind of characters will fit in the novel. For instance, with my latest, I knew I was going to need an edgy, slightly darker main character. I also knew she needed to be a little selfish. When I'd finished creating this character I realized that people were going to REALLY dislike her which is a problem since she is telling the story. So I created a male counterpart who takes his turn telling half the story and made him everything she isn't. He's giving (I really iced on the sympathy here by giving him a neglecting family and a little sister he adores), thoughtful, pretty straight laced, and has a major crush on the other character. He sees her good and in doing so, forces the reader to as well.
Once I figure out who my main character (or characters in this case) is, I make up a character spread sheet. I list everything I know about this character, starting with physical attributes. It looks a little like this when it's finished:
Hair: Black with a purple streak, short and choppy
Eyes: Almond shaped and grey
Height: 5' 4"
Body Type: Slender, longer torso
Distinguishing marks: A large burn scar on her back from her mother's blow torch (her sister inflicted it by accident)
Once this is complete, I go on to list her personality (just a loose description), her interesting traits (she hates feet), her likes, her dislikes, and everything in between.
I try to get pretty in depth but to be completely honest, a lot of things don't even come out until I'm writing and the trait/story/like/dislike magically appears on the page. For instance, during this last draft of my novel, I just found out that my male MC is lactose intolerant but that he buys chocolate milk for lunches anyways because his sister likes it. Those type of details are the reasons I make characters in the first place.
My character spread sheet is an essential part to my work. I map out every single character (and add to it if I change something or add another character) and it comes in handy when I can't remember if someone's sister has blonde hair like their mom or light brown like them.
I like everything organized before I start writing otherwise it's so easy to get lost down that magical, swirling rabbit hole.
It is an added bonus that by doing this, my husband is able to draw my characters too. He just sneaks a peek over my shoulders and starts going. Here's his interruption of the character from the spread sheet above:
|Created by Brian Mitchell|
So what about you? How do you create characters?