Tag Archives: writing characters

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How A New Character Is Born

People often ask me who or what inspires me. How I get my ideas for the stories I write and the characters I come up with. Sometimes it’s hard to think up an answer on the spot, but I can definitely say that a lot of my stuff comes from things I watch or read. I’m a huge fan of various television shows and books, including popular series.

So, how do I take a well known character and turn it into a brand new persona that’s virtually unrecognizable to the public as anyone else but the character as portrayed in my work?

First, I think about what I like or most easily relate to in the storyline. Is it the actual storyline? One of the characters themselves? A particular relationship? A setting?

Once, I’ve narrowed it down, I take that one detail and start playing with it. Let’s say it’s a character. We’ll call him James. And let’s pretend he’s in a television show that set in New York City, where he plays a detective, who’s in love with another detective. His character is a stand up guy, with a strong work ethic and an endearing personality. But he’s also a little brooding and very sexy.

This is definitely someone I would be attracted to and would want to put into one of my stories. But, how? First, I change his name, then I add or subtract at least five years from his age. Already, my character is taking on a little bit of a different role. But, I won’t stop there. Next, I’ll¬†put him in a different location than the character of James is usually found in, and I might even give him a different career, with a slightly altered personality. Now, the character who used to be James, known by millions around the world, is suddenly a completely different guy, and ready to be known as anyone I want him to be.

Sounds easy, right? It can be, but it can also be challenging. Of course, that’s part of the fun of writing. Giving birth to characters is one of the most rewarding aspects because then I get to sit back and watch them come to life.

Then before I know it, they’ve take on a life of their own, with conflicts, decisions, and feelings that feel as authentic as if they were my very own. Well, almost. Every character I’ve ever come up only feels complete when he or she has a part of me within them. Whether it’s a good or a not so good aspect of my personality, or some other trait like fear, hope, dream, or deep dark secret I’ve never shared, it’s safe to say that little bits of me live on, and often in very exaggerated forms, through the lives, thoughts and actions of my characters.

And that is how a character in one of my writing projects is born. As a very good writing teacher once said, nothing comes from nothing. That’s why it’s always easier and better when you can start with something and work you’re way out, or in, from there.