There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Characters October 26, 2013

I’m not entirely sure why I thought I would be wrapping up the Encyclobibliogrimoire series today with Magic, but we’re gonna hold off on that seeing as how I only glossed over a major, MAJOR component of every story:


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The reason I pay a cover artist.

I’m sure you guys wouldn’t have forgotten this component of your Encyclobibliogrimoire, but we’ll go over it anyway. The first suggestion I would have, that is not all biased, would be to go back over some of the character building posts we’ve made here at TADA over the past year. There’s some good stuff in there. And to be a pal, I’m even going to compile a list for you:

Oh, and don’t forget to take your character’s race into account (See: Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Races) So how do all of these posts help us with our Encyclobibliogrimoire? Easy. They help us to create well-rounded and unique characters. Don’t lean on stereotypes, and never treat any character like a throwaway character in your books. If a character appears on your pages, they should have a place in your story bible. World-building isn’t always just about the world itself. A lot of draw in fantasy novels is how real your characters are and how well your audience can connect to them.

First, start with the basics. I already listed those before, but lets go over them again. Depending on how minor the characters are, not all of these will apply. But you should at least try to fill out as many as possible. It will do wonders for helping you get a good grip on that character.

    • Name
    • Age
    • Birthday
    • Birth Place
    • Race
    • Physical description
    • Abilities
    • Family members
    • Best friend
    • Love interest

Next, get into their character traits and history. I put these two together because a lot of times they go hand in hand. My main character Zelene has an attitude and a chip on her shoulder, but she is also one of the most compassionate and passionate characters in the book. Why? Because she grew up in the ugly side of the foster-care system and was physically abused most of her life. This is the reason for her anger, and for her empathy when she sees other downtrodden people.

After you’ve nailed down their history, get into the plot points they have to deal with in your story. It seems silly to outline everything again from the fabulous storyboard I’m sure you’ve made, but it’s more important than you might think. This will help you to track your character’s progress throughout your story. As writers, we never want our characters to be stagnant. We write about the journeys they are on, and those journeys change them as they move forward. Track this, and make sure your character is developing the way you want them to.

Next, talk about relationships. You might have already covered this in the previous two points, but it’s a good idea to at least have a rough list of the relationships your character has and what kind. Do they have a good, strong relationship with their parents? Do they hate their brother? Idolize their best friend? All of these things effect how they react in certain situations.

Last, talk to your character. I recently did a blog tour for Heirs of War, and did several character interviews as tour stops. I was surprised by how refreshing it was to sit down and talk to my characters like they were real. You’re a writer–you come up with the conversation. It might feel silly at first. I know the first time I tried this years ago after reading that J.R. Ward did this, I felt like a complete idiot. My suggestion? Don’t use a questionnaire that is already filled out. Think about what you would want to say to your characters, or what they might want to say to you. I know Tate has some choice words for me…Anyway. You might be surprised and get to see a whole different side to your characters that you didn’t realize was there.

Whew. Now I feel better about the character portion of the Encycliobibliogrimoire. It was sorely lacking before. Next time we’ll talk about magic, but I want to hear your thoughts. Think I missed anything this go round with characters? Think we had enough covered before? See me in the comments!

  ~Mara Valderran

What A Character February 27, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:30 am
Tags: ,

K. L. Schwengel

Plot can drive a story, but without characters to keep it on the road, even the most intriguing plot can spin into the ditch. Not just any characters will do, however. They need to be vibrant, engaging, capable of either making us love or hate them. Two dimensional characters will flutter away in the breeze and leave us as flat as they are.
So, how to go about making your characters come to life?
First off, give them a flaw. Or several flaws. Even the most badass hero has to have a weakness. Internal demons, a physical issue, personality trait — without it, readers aren’t going to care overmuch about our hero. If he’s Prince Charming, perfect in every way, handsome, strong, intelligent, kind, noble, blah, blah, bo-ring. What if Prince Charming is insecure? What if he’s hiding some dark secret that eats at him? How does he handle that? How does it effect his ability to pass off the Charming charade, and what are the consequences of it? Now you’ve got a character we can possibly relate to.
Make it tough on them. Nobody gets to skate through life and avoid all the pitfalls. Throw things at your characters. Literally and figuratively. Show them overcoming adversity, or not. The most interesting characters are the ones that struggle to get to the end of the story.  And remember, they don’t always win. That’s okay. That’s why we can relate to them.
Show growth. If your heroine starts out as a spoiled, pampered girl and ends the story as a spoiled, pampered girl, you’ve got a problem. Nobody is going to want to stick with her to the end. She’ll be the character everyone is hoping will get killed off just to get her out of the way. That flaw I mentioned, those things you’re throwing at your character? They build tension and help move the plot (otherwise, they shouldn’t be there) which means they need to affect your heroine.
Make them individuals. No two people are the same. Even identical twins have something that sets them apart from one another. Use that. Study the people you know. What are their little quirks? Do they talk with their hands? Have a nervous gesture? Like to dress flamboyantly? Whatever it is, find it and use it.
Dialogue helps. A creature in its own right, good dialogue can be tricky. Read your dialogue out loud. If your tongue trips over it, you’ve got issues. Listen to how people around you talk. Most people use contractions and a lot of adverbs. They also tend not to use proper sentence structure. Yes, they dangle their participles all over the place, even in public. Give your characters their own unique voices. A fun exercise to try is to write an entire scene using nothing but dialogue. No tags, no action, just people talking. The reader should be able to distinguish between characters based on speech patterns, and word choices.
Now, while you’re creating all these marvelous main characters, don’t forget the minor ones. If they’re important enough to have a walk on role, their important enough to pay attention to. If you’re putting them in just for fluff, get rid of them. They deserve to be just as real as the main players.
Really delving into your character’s skin can be one of the most fun and exciting parts of being a writer. Readers will fall in love with your flawed hero, your sullied heroine. They’ll love to hate your psychotic antagonist. Nothing like a good baddie to get the blood boiling. But it’s up to you to get them there. To lift that character from flat and boring, to full-figured and intriguing. And always remember, how your characters view one another can also tell volumes about them.
So, what are your tips and tricks for character development? What makes a character memorable for you?