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  1. #1
    Dora Nevius

    Creating round characters.

    Good day everyone!

    Some time ago I took a class about creative writing. One of the things that we focused on in that class was how to create ‘round’ characters. These are some of the steps the Professor guided us through.

    1)Invent characters or use characters you already made.
    2)Their names and age.
    3)What is their line of work?
    4)Give them a routine.
    5)What are their fears, desires and hopes?
    6)Focus on something like for instance their hands.
    7)What are the sounds and smells around them?
    8)Where do they feel comfortable?
    9)Is there something about them other people feel it’s annoying?

    Now take those characters and put them in a difficult situation. From what you created who will be the one to lead? Who will be the first to give up? Will one walk over the others to survive? And any other reactions you can come up with for this people.

    I would like to see what other people here think about this little exercise and maybe if you would like to add your own approaches on the matter.

    Thank you for reading this.


  2. #2
    Jim Cothran

    Re: Creating round characters.

    I've never 'built' a character as your Professor suggests, ascribing one character trait after another until I've created a clone that works for me. To the contrary, my characters tend to bull their way into my stories full blown and unannounced, taking over the stage, often leading me on snipe hunts before I can regain control. But that's my most gratifying reward--watching my characters interact and develop on their own in ways I could never foresee.

    Building puppets and putting them in difficult situations smacks of a mechanistic approach to what should be a creative process. Look instead to the heart of your story, and let the natural actors emerge. Chances are they'll bring along their own resumes.

    Write on.


  3. #3
    Kevin Craig

    Re: Creating round characters.

    Dora, I take the people that I know and recarve them, thinly masking them so they don't hit me with brooms. This may sound like I am trying to be funny. (Well I am, but it's true too) I believe that we should use everything at our disposal. I steal things about 7 or 8 different people I know and amalgamate them into one creature. I also steal from John Q. Public who walked into the donut store in front of me picking his nose. I watch people all the time and think 'would my character do that', or 'my female character in the story about horses should have the same scar as that guy working the jackhammer there'. In short, nothing is sacred. I do, though, use the character description form that was introduced in "The Weekend Novelist" too, though...which is sort of like the list of questions you did your character creating exercises on. Everything works. That's the beauty of it!

  4. #4
    Laura Gibson

    Re: Creating round characters.

    I agree with Jim. I don't know what my character's hobbies and occupations are, until I've been through it four or five times. It's like digging up itty bitty pieces of bone, here and there in hopes that you'll get enough to make a skeleton, or framework for an outline. Then, you start adding the heart, the circulatory systems, etc..That's when the real fun begins, for me at least. When my characters get up and start ordering me around.

  5. #5
    Amanda Roper

    Re: Creating round characters.

    I'm with Mr. Cothran on this one. Although I base a lot of my characters on people I know or a combination of them, I'm not always in control of them. Parts of their personality or history have been known to change without a moments notice. And, I've lost track of how many times they've taken my story ideas and turned them on their ear. Thanks to such an action a week or so ago, I now have to completely restructure the novel I'm working on.

    Though, as troublesome as "round" characters can be, I've learned to trust them. There's usually a very good reason for their 'mutiany.' Yes, the above mentioned incident added two new subplots and affected one or two others, but the story will be hugely improved for it.

    Using a formula like that to create a character seems like a cop out. You're not connected to the character and vice versa. It may say round character sheet at the top of the page, but it sounds more like a cookie cutter. You'd end up with a character subburb. It would be useful for notes though, just not creation.

  6. #6
    Gary Kessler

    Re: Creating round characters.

    I don't use this method myself, but many established authors do, so it seems like a sound option. I would just think that the "outline" of the character would need to be flexible enough to fill out and change as the character itself comes alive in the book and makes some decisions itself on who it is and what motivates it.

  7. #7
    Dora Nevius

    Re: Creating round characters.

    Thank you all for you insight on this.

    Truth is I also write my characters the way you all do. And indeed it's fun to just let them go along with the story and some times surprise you! I thought to post this though because when I took that class I was very new at writing and it was actually a fun little exercise. It helped me as a writer because at the beginning my characters were a little flat. You are right though there are better ways I just thought this would be good for the beginners as it was for me. I also wanted to see what you all think about it since you are more experienced than I.


  8. #8
    Mike Fulton

    Re: Creating round characters.


    Great Spoonerism you've got going with your name.

    I'm with Kevin regarding characterization and character development. Whatever works works.

    What you suggest is a good exercise for learning character development, and it could be used in a working manuscript, but I (personally) couldn't use it all the time for every character.

    I can also see its use for developing a character whom the writer has discovered in the writing process who need greater identity and greater import but who are still a mystery to the writer himself. I can see how your process can be used to great advantage.

  9. #9

    Re: Creating round characters.

    Dora, I don't do this sort of thing until well into the writing process, and I don't necessarily use all the questions. But I find myself saying, ok, when this person was a child what was /hisher greatest fear, what did she/he do in school, etc. Just to get a better idea of who she/he is. Also, I find that I have to be careful or all my characters will end up with the same odd habits (like pacing or chewing on a lip when they are thinking).


  10. #10
    Mike Fulton

    Re: Creating round characters.

    But no (before anyone asks), I do not write for Donald Rumsfeldt.

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