There are many examples for writing students of exercises and worksheets through which to create characters. Do a search in Google Images for “character creation worksheet.”
Are you overwhelmed? Close your browser. Let’s talk about how working writers get this done.
People present themselves in what they say and what they do. These are a result of beliefs and experiences. And all of this is alive, complex, and full of contradictions.
We know very little of people when we first meet. We learn through doing life with them, through conversations, through time spent together. It’s a slow process. But a rewarding one. It’s what gives much of our life meaning. A person’s hobbies or where they went to school? These are simple trivia. Their tics and idiosyncrasies, their moments of insight and magnificent blunders––these are what endear them to us.
Characters are people. They are dynamic, not static. Characters aren’t developed, they’re ever-developing. I knew nearly nothing about Oren when I began to write my novel The Confessions of Adam. I knew simply that he was from Susa, a master scribe, and a proud skeptic. All of these details came by necessity of the story. Oren walked onto the set. That is how we met.
As I wrote, I learned much more about Oren. I learned his father and he had a difficult relationship. I learned his son and he did as well. I learned about his tragic romantic life, his insecurities, and loneliness. These were dimensions of him I learned through the writing, through listening, in time spent with him––not ones I invented writing a character sketch. This is life, not a lab.
Oren became a friend. He was from a culture, time, and place unlike my own. He was at once ancient and modern. I listened to what he said, how he said it, and I came to better understand him as I wrote these down. I am convinced there are nooks and crannies of Oren I know nothing about, depths of his psyche and complexities of thought he intentionally holds back, ones he himself doesn’t yet understand, or doesn’t know how to share.
When you view a character in a story you’re writing just as you would a new acquaintance, and in time, an old friend (or enemy), you have a fully developing character.