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Creative Corner: Brainstorming a character

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Clephas

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Usually, I focus mostly on the perspective of a consumer when I write in this blog.  I do this because I am and always have been primarily a consumer of material rather than a creator.  However, that doesn't mean I've never created anything... just that I haven't published anything (well, under my own name... ghost writing doesn't count) since some early fiction on Deviantart over a decade ago. 

So, since I'm not writing as many reviews, I chose to start a small corner describing the techniques I use when I'm writing fiction (which I still do as a hobby, though I stopped posting it after the last site I posted massively on went under).

Today's corner is about the techniques I use when creating a character (usually the protagonist and his immediate surrounding characters, as well as the antagonist) in the brainstorming process.  There are two types I use... the flow of thought type and the 'important points' type.

The flow of thoughts (similar to flow of consciousness style of writing) involves simply writing out all the qualities, the basic history, and abilities/talents/weaknesses of a character as they occur to you in prose form.  This is very similar to the character summaries given on official websites, but in much more detail, with specific important points (to you) described in detail.  Immediately after I complete this process, I ink out the setting (I usually create a setting in parallel to the characters) and then I start the 'sculpting' process.  The sculpting process involves slowly shaving away or altering parts of the character that don't quite fit with the full setting, are excessive (it is easy to make fantasy protagonists over-powered, for instance), or just don't seem to be internally consistent in retrospect.  The final step is to try to write an intro scene for that character that would make sense for that character in the universe you've created, giving you an impression that you can use to form their role in a story.

The second method I use is more mechanical.  In this case, I write out all the qualities in list form, based on what kind of character I'm interested in making.  I usually use this for side-characters, as it is a much 'dryer' approach.  Essentially, I create Personality, History, Relationships, and Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses categories.  Relationships is generally the first category I focus on, connecting their strand of the web to that of the protagonist and/or other characters.  The second is usually either History or Personality.  The reason is that this defines the nature of the Relationships, giving it a more distinct form.  Last is the Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses category.  To be blunt, while this is important to their role in the story, it is the aspect that is most likely to be subject to change based on what is necessary to keep the plot going.

These are the basic techniques I use... to be honest, since I've never been formally educated in creative writing, I don't know how close my methodology is to that which is commonly used, but I find that this works best for me.

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Its cool to see somebody else's approach, especially when mine is no where near as structured. Usually when I write, I create characters nearly as spontaneously as I do sentences. I try to get a strong feel for what story I am trying to tell, and then I just let characters enter and leave, and do as I feel is most natural for them. In a way its more like taking dictation then it is actively leading a plot. 

It also helps keep me motivated to write, since much of the fun for me is seeing how things turn out. Often surprising me and going pretty differently from how I planned in my head. And often much better then how I originally planned. 

 

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