This week we are talking about character inspiration for our #LifeBooksWriting Challenge. What inspires me to create a character? I have three different ways I deal with characters.
Inspiration type 1: When coming up with the storyline, I decide who may main characters will be and figure out who they are. When I have an idea for a character, I picture them in my mind because I am a very visual person. I decide what they look like, what kind of clothes they wear, and what kind of attitude they will have. I develop some kind of basic outline and decide if they are brave, sassy, funny, cruel, smart-mouthed, etc. Once I have a general feel for the character, I search the internet for a photo of them.
It doesn't matter if I start with an actor and find the right photo that works, or if I do a general search to find the perfect person, the photo always has to evoke some kind of emotion in me. The image has to inspire me every time I see it. Because my characters are complex, I often choose more than one photo for a main character. I will even go farther and find photos of their wardrobe to keep track of their outward appearance.
Inspiration type 2: Sometimes I have a character that won't be used until a future book, but I need to talk about them in books prior to their introduction. For example, I have my Predznak, or Harbinger Angels. There are ten in total, but only two of them speak in the first book of my series. By the second book, each of them makes a brief appearance, but I may not have a handle on their complete personality yet. When dealing with a future character, I usually don't know much about them until I let them speak. What does this mean? I write their dialog first. Haydn, my Angel of Distrust, likes to hide his eyes behind sunglasses and keep his back to the door. He is a very private, quiet person. I didn't know much more than that. His opening words, while I was playing with book 5, came out as cocky. He was overconfident in his abilities. He was strong, able to fight, and nearly impossible to find. He prided himself on being better than those around him. He also underestimates our 5' 4" petite main character Anjali, his Master.
I had no idea that he had any of these qualities until he opened his mouth. Picturing him all smug because he captured his Master without a fight brought him to life. I let Haydn speak for himself and he told me who he was. I was fascinated by this concept, not to mentioned a little freaked out.
Inspiration type 3: Many times while writing, the need for a new character arises. I usually have a specific reason for his or her creation, so it's a little easier to decide who this person will be. Again, a quick internet search will help me find the perfect candidate. I'm always excited when a small side character becomes more important to the plot. It makes the time and effort spent in naming and creating him or her worth it.
Since I am writing a twelve book series, I have to keep all my characters straight, so I created an Excel sheet to catalog their name, allegiance, nickname, book they are mentioned in, book they appear in, and book they died in. I use this sheet to make sure that my names aren't too similar, or if I do have similar names, one of the characters dies off before the new name is used.
Once I have my photo, description, and personality, I turn to the baby name generator to find the right name for my character, if I don't already have one in mind. I recently hosted an event to name one of my characters for book 4. I was surprised by all the wonderful suggestions and managed to incorporate a number of them into the story.
Characters are created by necessity, for fun, or sometimes by accident, but they are best part of the story. Without strong, interesting, well-developed characters, even a wonderfully constructed story will feel lifeless and hard to relate to. Take the time to give your characters depth, emotions, and interesting personalities.
Here a few photos that help to inspire me when I write for my Predznak. Though you might recognize the faces, it's the emotion in the photo that I'm drawn to.
The bold, ice cold gaze of the Angel of Death, Alazar (left).
The single minded Angel of Vengeance, Balthazar (right).
The befuddled mind of the Angel of Illness, Solren (left).
The emotionally distant Angel of Distrust, Haydn (right).