Friday, May 11, 2012

Crafting Characters: Where to Begin

Shoe Tree in Utah

So this is the prodigal return of me. Is it possible to return to yourself? I'm not sure, but I do know I've been gone for far too long. And instead of boring you with my intrepid exploits and occasional lame excuses as to why I have been absent for so long I'd just jump right back into helping you improve your writing.

One thing I’ve learned in my absence is the importance of everyone's story. Think for just a moment about your own life and the stories which you have that have never been shared. It would be terrible if you died having not shared your story. So I want to make sure you become the best writer you can be so you will feel confident to share your story with the world or at the very least your loved ones.

For the next few written posts and some video posts I want to share with you how to create amazing characters. For this exercise take a look at the story you want to write, or perhaps the one you've already written but you feel your characters aren't developed as well as you'd like.
In any story you need at a minimum two characters:
  1. Protagonist (good guy)
  2. Antagonist (bad guy)
Carrying on the most basic idea here your protagonist wants to accomplish something and your antagonist wants to keep the protagonist from accomplishing said something. Now don't get hung up on the idea these two characters have to be two separate entities, they can be the same person, and it is possible your antagonist isn't a person at all. It could be possible for your antagonist to be the weather, or a great disaster, or even an illness.

The same goes for your protagonist. Just because your protagonist is the hero of the story it doesn't mean they have to wear a white hat. Your protagonist can be a terrible villain as long as your antagonist is an even viler villain. The whole point is not to limit you to one idea or mold.

Now you can see your options are limitless look again at your story. What type of person or thing inhabits the role of protagonist? Grab a blank sheet of paper and answer the following four questions about your protagonist:
  1. What does your protagonist do in life?
  2. If a person saw your protagonist for the first time what is one prominent feature they would recall?
  3. What is your protagonist doing right now at this very moment in time?
  4. What is the one thing your protagonist wants?
Was that hard? It’s okay if it was. The main purpose here is to get your mind moving and thinking creatively. Now, this type of exercise is not limited to fiction writing, if your story is a nonfiction memoir or biography this will help you understand yourself or subject at the time in question.

I want you to think about your antagonist. This is the person or thing that will be at odds with your protagonist and the meaner and more diabolical your antagonist is the more your reader will love it. In the United States we love our protagonist to be able to overcome in the end but don’t ever make it easy. 
Now turn the page over so you have a completely blank slate again and answer the following three questions:
  1. What is the worst thing your antagonist has ever done in life?
  2. If a person had met your antagonist before and was asked any question about them what type of feeling would they have and why?
  3. Why is your antagonist compelled to see your protagonist fail?
Okay this is just the basic building blocks you need to start developing your characters. Next time we’ll start looking at what it takes to make a multidimensional character.



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