Character Creation

Before I begin a long writing project (novelette onwards) I spend a good deal of time taking notes, most of which deal with plot lines, twists, and object detail. I enjoy creating new creatures and (hopefully) intriguing characters, but I don’t spend altogether too much time delving into what makes each character tick. While I have a solid understanding of each character, I do not typically write extensive notes on their past transgressions, etc.

Every once in a while, from one source or another, I hear that this is a grave mistake. This, of course, gets me thinking about whether I should force myself to spend more time on character development.

In the end it is probably neither good nor bad. Some of my favorite authors spent a chunk of their lives in character creation (I’m thinking Tolkien…) while others most certainly did not. And while I have a great appreciation for The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, I equally enjoy books with less thought out detail.

I am therefore lumping criticism about too little character background in the ‘to each his own’ pile, and declaring it something that does not hold any weight over a story’s worth.

How much time do you spend delving into the past of your characters? Do you agree or disagree with what I have said?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Character Creation

  1. For this July’s Camp NaNoWriMo I’m using characters from a novel I started back when I was… 13… I think. Well about six years ago that is. I’ve written loads on it but nothing really worked so in the end I decided to start from scratch. However, all the changing ideas from various attempts at different sub-plots and scene means that I got quite a good handle on some of the characters. I’m still using the same characters because I’ve thrown them into so many situations that I know how they react and I will admit, I may hold conversations in my head (with said character) when I can’t sleep.
    It is not clinical insanity, I know they’re made up, I do it when I am stuck for plot ideas.

    • Hi Carol! I love that you have conversations with your characters and that you’ve been working with the same set for the past six years. Very cool.

      I spent the last 9 months writing a series of four children’s books and I experienced something similar. By the second book I was able to walk around the world in my mind while writing (also not clinical insanity… I swear…) and follow along with what the characters would naturally do instead of forcing plot development. Now that I’m working on a new book I sometimes miss writing in that world & am looking forward to getting back to it later in the year. Being able to connect on a deeper level with a character or storyline is a fantastic experience.

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