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!

In the meantime, if you enjoy reading articles on Always Inspired Writing, please like its fanpage on Facebook! In this way, you’ll never miss the newest updates or posts!

Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Managing Characters

The phenomenon of the reincarnating character: when your characters are all the same.

Do you sometimes feel that most of your main characters are different versions (or reincarnations!) of one character that you’ve already created before and wrote about? For example – are all your female protagonists the copy of a protagonist who is introverted and comes from a small village?

If yes, then you are probably wondering: “Is it bad?

No. It’s not bad.

Most readers won’t notice anyway. A reason for that is that readers seldom read all books that an author has released. And if they do, and the characters are similar, this is seen as something good. It creates a feeling that the author knows what they are doing and that there is a pattern in their writing. It shapes reader’s expectations and if they come to your books and get what they were expecting – you get bonus points. Which mean mostly reader’s loyalty and even more great reviews.

You are allowed to express yourself through the same character as many times as you want. It’s not wrong. And nobody can take it away from you. In fact, there are famous writers who keep writing about the same kinds of characters over and over again – like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Haruki Murakami.

Let’s dive deeper into the phenomenon of the reincarnating character.

“I first created Ann, then Anabel, then Anette. Now I’m tempted to write about Annice. Why does it happen?”

The reason for this is that the original character (in this case: Ann) feels particularly close to you and like I’ve mentioned before, is a preferred channel of expression for you. You have so much to say through this one character, that you recycle them over and over again to be able to tell even more. Recycling of characters happens especially when you’ve chosen NOT to write a series. Protagonists of a series seldom return to you as you had plenty of time and space to express what you wanted through them.

When we create a character, we don’t realize how important they could become in the future. Very often, we realize that their life was too short after we’ve finished working on their story. And so, we write a new story about someone similar, and jump into the boat with that character again, ready for a new journey.

Sometikes, third person characters change to incredibly important characters in your mind, and become the main characters in another project.

You probably have more reincarnating characters that you are aware of:

Sometimes, you will want to perpetuate the life of a secondary or tertiary character consciously. I’ll give you an example: it’s that mean ex, whose name, looks and personality isn’t important, but she’s there to ruin your hero’s romance. Or, it’s that good hearted uncle who appears out of nowhere to help the main character out of trouble each time they get into it. The face and attire might be different, but deep down it’s always the same character, who, like an actor, plays similar roles in various theaters.

Now take a moment to think: how many times have you used the stereotype of a beggar, a bus driver or a doctor?

I am asking you not to blame you, but to point out for you, that by facilitating our work over and over again, we do recreate the same characters without even being aware.

In order to change this pattern, you need to focus on the character creation more and force yourself to invent original characters instead of taking the easy path. It might be a huge challenge, especially if you write a lot and create characters constantly. I’ll try to write more articles about characters so as to help you.

Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Managing Characters

How to remove characters from plot (without killing them)

Photo by STIL, Unsplash.com

If you are writing in the following genres: horrors, thrillers, detective stories, post-apocalyptic / dystopian fiction, war chronicles etc., killing characters is something that you are almost required to do.

However, a lot of authors who write outside of these genres often use character death to get rid of the characters that for some reason stopped serving them. If you have ever read a book in which an important character died suddenly, leaving you (and his team) angry and confused, you know what I am talking about.

Especially in long series, authors choose to kill character after character, using it as a way to push forward the plot. The remaining characters don’t have the chances to mourn the deceased ones, or on the countrary – they get stuck in a downward spiral of neverending mourning. At this point the authors have already created tragedy porn and lost the readers’ respect. 

How to avoid this?

The answer is simple. Don’t kill characters unless you absolutely have to, and no, “I don’t need them anymore” is not a valid reason. Learn to remove characters from your plot using other techniques – which I am sharing with you today:

  1. Graduation
  2. Changing schools
  3. Receiving a scholarship
  4. Contract termination
  5. Being fired
  6. Being transferred
  7. Going on internship
  8. Visa ending
  9. Returning home
  10. Family issues (helping sister with her newborn child, dealing with official matters regarding inheritance, supporting father during his rehab etc…)
  11. Going on a journey
  12. Going on a mission
  13. Going on pilgrimage
  14. Withdrawing due to health issues (staying in hospital, being on therapy, having a mental breakdown etc…)
  15. Changing the clique (due to a new hobby, after starting to date a new partner etc…)
  16. Quitting the relationship / friendship / agreement due to an argument
  17. Hanging out less and less until naturally disappearing
  18. Plot changes place (for example, if up to this moment the main characters were in Italy, move half of them to a new place).
  19. Main characters decide to spend less time with disappearing character (they found someone who works better or they simply got tired / disappointed… )
  20. Disappearing character goes through a personal revolution and starts turning their life upside down.
  21. Disappearing character is about to get something better than he had until now / something he always wanted, which makes them focus on their life mostly.
  22. Disappearing character falls in love with one of the main characters, gets rejected and disappears.
  23. Disappearing character completed his duty at the side of the main character (for example, a high school piano teacher gets replaced by university piano teacher)

Possibilities are really endless. My general advice is: think of the ground on which you created the relationship between the main character and the disappearing character. Then, simply remove this ground. You can also combine many reasons into one, if you feel that one reason isn’t strong enough.

Finally, if you changed your mind and need the unwanted character back, with the upper solutions you can make them return at any moment – for example, if they have become extremely popular in the fandom.