My Character Formula

Characters are arguably the most important part of writing, especially for someone who's hoping to be a series author. So, naturally, I do a lot of thinking (and analyzing and obsessing) about them. I think I've finally arrived at my Grand Unifying Theory of Character.

Step One: Two Defining Characteristics. They don't have to go together naturally. If possible, one of them should be a flaw.

The two Defining Characteristics for Kitty, my series protagonist, are Insightful and Self-Absorbed.

For Gallo, my series love interest, they are Curious and Solitary.

And for Fiore, my series antagonist, they are Romantic and Sadistic.

Step Two: Invent a Major Mannerism. This mannerism should be the direct result of at least one, or ideally both, Defining Characteristics.

Kitty's Major Mannerism: Manipulating people.

Gallo's Major Mannerism: Reading everything he can get his hands on.

Fiore's Major Mannerism: Well, this one is a pretty major plot point. Suffice it to say that it does in fact combine Romantic and Sadistic in what I hope is an interesting way.

Step Three: Color everything with a Mood. The Mood doesn't refer to the deep characteristics of their personality, but rather to their surface persona: how someone observing them from a distance might describe them. It isn't at all necessary for the Mood to be related to the Defining Characteristics; in fact, it can be pretty interesting if it's at odds with them.

Kitty's Mood: Ingenue

Gallo's Mood: Hard-boiled

Fiore's Mood: Refined

Step Four: Give the character a Unique Perspective. This is the way the character sees the world. It should be at some way at odds with reality. Giving two characters warring perspectives really amps up the potential for interesting interactions between them.

Kitty's Unique Perspective: It's all about the glitz and the glamour.

Gallo's Unique Perspective: Life is full of pain.

Fiore's Unique Perspective: I'm a good guy.

Step Five: All the rest. On top of this skeleton you layer additional characteristics, minor mannerisms, and quirks. Some of mine are:

Kitty: Loves hats, hates her figure

Gallo: Hates alcohol, takes obsessive notes

Fiore: Loves to eat, bullies his older brother

And there you have it: my character creation method. It's not perfect, and I don't even follow it exactly with every character. But it helps.


Mark Kalmes said...

Sounds like painting. Pretty cool.