Character Creation – That Super Fun Thing I Waste Time On

(Warning: This is a train of thought post and does not have much organization involved)…

I looooove the character creation phase of stories.  I’m referring to the big push of the nitty-gritty details before I start a series/book.  This is the part where I get each one of my cast figured out looks-wise, personality, a bit of history, age, jobs, etc.  Characters can and do pop out of nowhere later throughout the course of writing, and some of those can be the bestest (Reloy), but every story has to start off with its set cast.

The first place I start is the mains.  My stories have 1 or 2 main characters (with 1 exception) around which the over-arching story revolves:

Dahlia and Lucifer – Morningstar.

Rake and Ravil – Wastes.

Oregon Atari Argyle and Kentucky B. Coffee – Reactor 8.

Camilla / Col.Mayer / Sam / Soltana / Aliya – Prophets.    Tangent on: This is my exception story, it’s also the first one that I envisioned and ever started writing.  It took me years and years to finish book 1 (The Bound Prophets is a working title, but probably not a final).  This story is unique in style vs the others and may require a complete re-write before it ever sees an audience outside of two of my friends. Tangent off.

When I started Morningstar I used movie stars as my visual templates.  I found pics that worked with the story (3-4 pics per character), I pasted them into a Word doc, added one word descriptors, and sometimes a one-liner here and there.  I included things that would immediately recall not just a character’s looks, but their personality as well.  That I think is the most important aspect…character personality (and consistency of personality).  Drives me up the wall when a character has some strange personality shift without it being explained.  Just because a change is convenient to plot, doesn’t mean it’s right.  In fact, it’s wrong.  Characters are sacrosanct.  I hate it when authors put plot above character, it drives me nuts.  So…yeah anyways…I get pictures to help me keep their personality in mind.

I then print those pages off and tack them up on the wall above my computer, sharing space with timelines, factoids, and maps (I freaking love maps).  These are the closest thing to my book bible without actually being my book bible.  My bible is a leatherbound book called a book-book (it’s a book about my books, ha-ha I’m clever!).  Into the book-book goes scene ideas, quotes, notes, dreams, random tangents, ideas for a book 5 books into the series, etc.  It’s my cheat sheet and treasure trove all wrapped into one.  It’s also home to amusing plot ideas that got scrapped.  Wastes has some great ones that never came to be.

Damn it…off topic I’ve gone again.

So…I started off with celeb pics for characters (yeah, I already have a dream cast for Morningstar…not that that will ever happen).

Okay, let’s get on to present day (I wrote the Morningstar Trilogy in 2009).

I stopped using celebs.  I went instead to a mecca of picture-ness that is Model Mayhem (it’s a website).  Now, their purpose is not for me to go and find my perfect cast, but damn they provide such a nice way for me to find said cast.  You can search models by their height, color scheme, gender, age, we’re talking hand picked.  Now this can take me hours if not days of sorting through pics to find someone perfect.  But when I do, it’s like a light clicked on.  I do a little dance and copy paste them into my new Word doc of awesome.  And when I’m done, I print and tack them up.  They stay up until I finish writing the series (then into a file folder they go).

The best part about this process is finding new characters that I hadn’t even thought of simply because I find a totally rad picture online.  This happened mostly with Reactor 8…I came up with a character named T. Britannica Peppers simply because this one guy’s pic screamed ‘use me please, I am perfect!’   So Tomato was born, curly crazy fro and all.

Uh, yeah, dudes called Tomato.  The naming convention in Reactor 8 is unique, I don’t name all my characters after fruits.  Which brings us to naming, sweet glorious naming.  It’s not really that glorious, names do not get a lot of forethought in my book (at creation).  I will look up the meanings of names after they’re chosen, but I don’t pick names due to their meanings (exception Prophets, but everything in Prophets is an exception).  Other exceptions are my demons, because they’re named after Fallen Angels.  I picked them because I liked the name and I liked the basic description in the Lesser Key of Solomon.

Names generally spring into mind when I’m daydreaming a scene to music (that’s how I plan my scenes…they’re all to music).  Typically I get to the point where someone needs to call someone by name and…a name pops into existence.  Marx, Kennedy, Lincoln…all came into existence at the same time.  Ladriam and Appleadris were made up jumbles of pretty sounding syllables.  Danny, Mica, Whitney, Celeste, Sammy…were just the first thing that popped into my head.  But no, I didn’t just come up with Oro, Evgeniy, and Tasanee on the fly.  I had to look up some actual names of the country of origin.

Anywho…sitting above my computer are the basics for Reactor 8.  I got pics, schematics of oil rigs, equipment (harpoons, goggles, wrenches, snow gear), maps of my lovely reactors, and maps of the North American railroads as they stand (or stood) relatively recently.

I’ve been itching to write Reactor 8, but I must finish Wasted (book 7 of Wastes Series).  I’ve delayed too long on that story and I have a few advanced readers who’ll start to cut at me with spoons if I don’t finish that beast already.

So I should probably quit writing this, and get back to writing that.

~Darcy

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One Response to “Character Creation – That Super Fun Thing I Waste Time On”

  1. Jon M. Van Wassenhove Says:

    Got some good tips from this, Darcy. I gotta look into investing into all the detailed stuff you do before you even start writing. As it goes right now for me, I have/keep a permanent mental image of my characters in my noggin.

    Perhaps w/ these tips I can go from scrub aspiring writer to not-totally-crappy aspiring writer. LOL

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