Posted in All Articles, Managing Characters

How to instantly create original characters – even if you are an author veteran who ran out of all their ideas

Hi everyone! Today, I will teach you how to instantly create original characters – even if you are an author veteran. I have started writing very early, as an 11 year old, and creating reincarnating characters have been plaguing me quite a lot throughout the years – and I know I’m not the only one. Whether I read classics or play indie visual novels, it’s always one story with the same cast – let’s call it the standard cast.

I will start publishing my work on the English market soon, and you will have the chance to see that in my standard cast are usually:

  • “The handsome and mysterious guy who pretends not to be interested.”
  • “The unconditionally loving best friend who is always listening to the protagonist.”
  • “The fair weather friend who seems flawless but eventually turns her back on the protagonist, usually because of jealousy or envy.”
  • “The evil twin sister.”
  • “The perpetually absent parents.”
  • “The future boyfriend disguisted as the protagonist’s best friend.”
  • “The crazy teacher and their unconventional methods of teaching.”
  • “The outed LGBTQIA+ character who is the coolest, the most stylish and the most understanding person in the group.”

Etc.

This cast has its strengths when you are writing about them for the first time in your life. But not when you keep writing about them over and over again. At one point, you get so bored of them, and yet, you somehow struggle to invent new ones. Even if you watch movies or read books for inspiration, you are probably unconsciously omitting characters that aren’t similar to the ones appearing in your standard cast – you know, the way everyone focuses on Leonardo Di Caprio in his movies and barely remembers anyone who was there except from him (sorry, Leonardo).

To change this pattern, we need to understand why we are so obsessed about our standard cast:

  1. Our standard cast consists probably of the first characters we had paid attention to when reading other people’s books. We thought that they were fun, so we created similar characters in our stories, and then perpetuated them over and over.
  2. Since we’ve known our standard cast for so long, we know them in and out; hence, it’s very easy to construct them and then to write about their behavior. We know we just won’t get them wrong.
  3. They are helping us convey some truths about us. We express our ideas, values and beliefs via these characters.
  4. We just love them.

In order to create characters that are different from our standard cast, we need to get out of our comfort zone. It can be done easily – simply by flipping what I had told you above. So:

  1. Let’s focus on characters that almost never get our attention.
  2. Let’s allow ourselves to know nothing about these new characters and meet them in the story.
  3. Let’s make them convey the opposite of what we think.
  4. Let’s write them regardless of whether we like them or not.

#1 – Let’s focus on characters that almost never get our attention.

When I watch movies or read books, I never pay attention to children or animals. Yet, there are plenty of stories where the main characters are the boy and his dog, or the girl and her horse. This type of plot is almost nonexistent in my work, meaning – writing about it will probably be fun.

#2 – Let’s allow ourselves to know nothing about these new characters and meet them in the story.

We writers like to have all the answers. Only in this way elements constructing our story can play together in harmony. We always talk about how we need to have the complete plan before starting, yet having the complete plan takes excitement out of the story. Predictability isn’t boring only in relationships. We need to let our characters have some secrets and surprise us with them. Those secrets don’t need to affect the plot in a significant way, but they may help stir some drama when things get boring.

#3 – Let’s make them convey the opposite of what we think.

This one is my favorite and it’s the most powerful tip that I can give you today, so please, pay attention. We tend to automatically create characters that speak up for what we believe in. But what if we had done the opposite, what if we made them speak for things that we absolutely don’t believe in? It can enrich our story in surprising ways.

For example, I am somebody for whom love is more important than money. If I love someone, I love them regardless of whether they are rich or poor. Now, let’s flip this statement and create a character for whom money plays a huge role in starting a relationship. What do they have to say? What is their version of the story?

Another example: if you are a Christian, write the story from the perspective of an atheist. If you are an atheist, write the story from the perspective of a Christian.

In short, just try to get out of your shoes. Yes, writers should write about what they know, but if you keep doing that over and over again, you will run out of steam. This is why you need to regularly get out of your comfort zone. If you don’t, writing will stop being a challenge. And when something is not a challenge, it quickly becomes boring.

I’m not going to tell you to follow the rule to write only once about something, as different stories can take place in the same settings, and same characters can play out different scenarios. But if you just feel that this is becoming too boring for you to write, then try to change.

4 – Let’s write them regardless of whether we like them or not.

I think that we tend to avoid creating brand new characters, especially ones that differ from our old ones, cause we are scared we won’t like them. This is understandable and I won’t lie to you that the feeling of dislike towards such characters will go away once you spend more time with them. If you read “Mermaid Princess Amelia & The Lost Symphony,” you will meet Jet Mir, a mysterious merman who is the captain of a submarine and the exiled prince of the Lakkadive Sea. He is rather selfish, but can also act really charming. Most readers find him intriguing and even hot. I don’t share this opinion, he isn’t “my type of guy” – but, I’m glad he is in that story. He’s creating confusion and drama and that’s pushing the novel forwards.

I think that rather than worrying whether we will like a character or not, we should ask ourselves something else: if writing about this character will be fun. And if yes, why? What are we looking forwards to writing the most when we pick this or that character as our main one?

And last, but not least:

Know your limits. If you don’t feel comfortable writing about some types of characters, or you’ve tried but they really trigger you, just give them up and either rewrite their scenes or throw them away alltogether. Don’t force yourself to write about things that don’t feel right to you. Yes, experimenting and getting out of your comfort zone is important, but it’s making you feel bad, then it’s just not worth it.

That’s it for today – but before I go, I have to inform you that unfortunately, due to the enormous amounts of work I had as an indie publisher in the last couple of months, I haven’t prepared any new membership area articles. So, I can’t launch the standard membership yet. For those of you who are looking forwards to reading the members only articles, the BETA membership will still be available.

As for the free articles, you’ve probably noticed I’m posting much less advice than I did before. I still have lots of ideas and techniques I want to share with you,  it’s likely they won’t show up as often as they did before, but I have no other choice – right now, I’m doing alone the job that should be done by at least six different people, and I’m really overwhelmed. I had to change the priorities so as to be able to publish my novel by the end of this year and complete all other projects that I have in time. So, I will be taking a break and writing in here only from time to time.

Thank you for your understanding!

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Author:

Hi! I am an author. I've published my debut novel in 2015 in Poland ("Dokąd teraz popłynę?"). My main genre is fantasy and magical realism. I often discuss socially difficult topics in my works and try to pass on a message of hope. I am always inspired and I never stop writing. My writing inspirations are Bruno Schulz, Pablo Neruda, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami. In my private life I am a polyglot. I believe in the Law Of Attraction and I write about it on UltimateManifester at Wordpress.

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