I get a lot of questions regarding my characters. More specifically, how I create them. This is probably a question every author gets.
I don’t really have a set way of creating a character. Generally what I’ll do first is think about the story concept. For example, I have an idea knocking around my brain about a dystopian book. I have a few elements to the story I want to encompass, and a few social positions within that society that the characters have to fit into. Just like real people, surroundings have a part in making a character.
For my heroine to maintain this top level position in a very sterile society, I get a sort of feeling that she is fiercely smart, stern and efficient. She was basically bred by the government for her role, and the ideal candidate would be a product of the need. So here I have a loose outline for a person, in a gray business suit (for example), that exists in an antiseptic society controlled by larger powers.
I am always very broad at first glance. It’s just a general feeling, like you’d get if you people watch, or met someone for the first time.
I think, then, of key elements around the character. For example, procreation is not a choice in this world. Sexual attraction plays no importance in that equation, which means the characters can suppress the desire if they chose. I definitely think she’d choose to suppress it. She’d have no need for it, and not bother.
She probably doesn’t have a lot of hobbies. I bet she doesn’t even drink a glass of wine with dinner. Just wouldn’t understand the point.
As I make all this up, I have in my head that the hero will like all these things, and will get no end of enjoyment out of ruffling her feathers. He’ll think it’s funny, and she won’t see the humor. (That’ll be a side conflict)
Once I have a basic understanding of her, I start writing. I put her in situations and just…react. I let her make some decisions, like an actor improvising, and let that shape her.
For example, a street guy advances lewdly as she walks into her office building. What does she do?
Well…let’s see (I’m creating her as I write this). Does she step forward with two well-placed punches and drop him? She’s bred for the best, does that include self-defense?
No, I don’t think so. She is a prized asset in the company and closely monitored. I think the female would continue walking normally, chin slightly elevated, and trust one the guards on the sideline to step forward and quell the lewd advance.
This situation will help shape her character. We can also get more definition on the world, too, because when that guard steps forward, he will brutally bash the bum over the head, grab the now bloody, limp body, and toss it across the wet, dirty curb; no regard for lower-tiered human life.
This brutality is commonplace, which establishes that our character is desensitized to this kind of violence. Every little thing affects the character. All you have to do is pay attention to the things you create, and think logically on how it affects the people in the story.
When in doubt, I think of what I would do.
If I was her, and saw a gross, dirty man step forward and try to grab my crotch, I would get a jolt of fear, flinch away, and try to cover myself. If I then saw him brutally bashed over the head, probably killed, I’d be haunted.
Because she is not, what must that mean for her life and surroundings? A hard, desensitized woman, probably.
Ooooor… is she outwardly pretending to be unruffled, so she avoids scrutiny, and inside dread is pinging around her body wildly?
Yes, I think that’s the winner. I’ve just created a conflict, and given her depth.
Well, happy days.
Each little thing that happens fleshes her out until she’s an imaginary friend and I end up in the loony bin waving around a feather quill and bottle of ink.
But anyway, that’s how I work into a character. At the end of the book they’re usually defined, and I go back to the beginning and rework to make sure they are all fleshed out from the get-go.
by K.F. Breene
I’d always been different. I saw objects in the night where others saw emptiness. Large, human shaped shadows, fierce yet beautiful, melting into the darkness. I collected secrets like other women collected bells; afraid to fully trust lest my oddities be exposed.
Until I saw him. He’d been gliding down the street, unshakable confidence in every step. It wasn’t just that he was breathtakingly handsome with perfect features. Something about him drew me. Sucked my focus to him and then tugged at my body. As his eyes met mine, I was entrapped.
No one had noticed him. He’d been right there, just beyond the light, but only I had perceived.
I had to know if he was real. Or maybe I really was crazy. And even when my secret box was blasted wide open, dangers hurled at me like throwing knives, I couldn’t stop until I unraveled his true identity.
I just had to know.
“She was fated to live.”
“Then why must you save her?”
“Often Fate is struck down by dumb luck.”
Read an excerpt:
As I met his black eyes, his puzzled expression deepened. “You’re human…”
“We established that, yes. What I want to know is, if I am human, what does that make you? And why do I notice you when others usually don’t?”
His head cocked to the side. His easy balance, his lethal edge; he was like a blade resting on billowing silk. “Very few humans are able to withstand our pheromones. Fewer still to break a Kolma once it has been placed. You’ve not been trained, that’s obvious, so how is this possible when you’re definitely human? Do you possess the blood of another species?”
I could barely think past the pounding ache of my body, begging to touch him. I needed to get a grip! He was revealing some very interesting factoids that I needed to jot down in my mental notebook.
His nostrils flared. “Charles was right; your arousal is a unique scent. Like a spicy, warm drink on a mid-winter’s night. It rises above other smells, entrancing the mind.”
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
A wine country native, K.F. Breene moved to San Francisco for college just shy of a decade ago to pursue a lifelong interest in film. As she settled into the vibrant city, it quickly became apparent that, while she thought making and editing films was great fun, she lacked cinematic genius. For that reason, her career path quickly changed direction. Her next goal was a strange childhood interest, conjured at the dining room table while filling out a form. For some reason, her young self wanted to be an accountant. Thinking on it now, she often wonders how she had any friends. Regardless, it was the direction she finally took.
While she could wrangle numbers with the best of 'em, and even though she wore the crown as the most outspoken, belligerent accountant in the world, her mind got as stuffy as her daily routine. It was here that she dusted off her creative hat and began writing. Now she makes movies in her head, not worried about lighting, shutter speed or editing equipment. Turns out, a computer is much easier to manage than a crowd of actors. She should know, she was an actor at one time.
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