Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Character Traits: How Do You Come Up With Them?

Let's face it. We writers spend more time with fictional people than real ones. They become real. Friends. In our minds they are living, breathing people with actual flaws, or at least they should have flaws because no one is perfect. Even Edward Cullen has creepy stalkerish tendencies.

So my question is how do you as a writer come up with your character traits? Where do you draw the most inspiration? Is it while watching a television show? Where you see the people weekly and learn traits that you love and kind of use that as a spring board or maybe you've made a character based on an actual person you know.

Music helps me a lot. Sometimes the lyrics of a song will call out to me and will let me inside someone else's head for a little while--gives me ideas on how my character may feel about a particular thing. Internal thoughts and feelings is, what I think, a building block to creating external characteristics. So I build a playlist. They tend to be a dark songs because my stories are not all puppies and rainbows.

I also read. A LOT. Reading is studying. When you find a book you like, study the characters. What makes you love them? Take that information and figure out how develop your a character people will love and want to read about.

Anyone else want to share about their character development process? 

Reading, Writing and Waiting


E. Arroyo said...

I draw some of my teen characters from my kids, or teens I know, just highlilghting their quirks, passions, and strengths.

Jgossipgirl101 said...

I completely agree with this. Music is my spur for most of my writing and it drives my characters along with plot.

Nikki said...

Funny enough, I was just creating character collages and I found some fun quirks and collectibles just by flipping through magazine pictures. Now one character loves cherry jello and another collects little rubber duckies!

Annie McElfresh said...

E--that's an awesome place to get ideas!

Jgossipgirl101--Music and writing does go hand and hand

Nikki--those are some funny quirks!! LOL

Debra D. said...

Great post, Annie! I'm inspired by music, TV, movies, and tons of other things! Sometimes, I'll use a characteristic from someone I know in real life, or a stranger that I've been watching. Um, wait--does that make ME have stalker-like tendencies? :D

Jamie B said...

Thanks for this post. I always need to find ways of making my characters more distinct!

Morgan said...

I take bits and pieces of people I know (some friends, others just random acquaintances) and use them to construct a full character. I love mixing one person's character traits with another's quirks and strange habits. It makes for a really realistic, complex character.

J.S. Wood said...

I've never thought about it, but I take little pieces I like (or don't like) from people I know and add them in. I also watch teens, a lot...it's kinda creepy. One of my gay characters was named after a guy in HS I didn't get along with, he was homophobic and an ass, now he's immortalized as a really nice, cute homosexual...kinda therapeutic ;)