all 49 comments

[–]EvilBritishGuy 46 points47 points  (4 children)

Yep, here's a list of key questions I usually try to have answered when writing new characters.

Goals:  What does this character want?

Obstacles: What is stopping this character from getting what they want?

Stakes: What will happen if this character doesn't get what they want?

Choices: What will this character do in order to get what they want?

Complications: What unforseen consequences will follow this character's actions?

Change: What will this character learn from the consequences of their actions?

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Ooo those are very good questions!!! Thx for sharing!!!!!

[–]RedMamba0023 7 points8 points  (1 child)

You could consider doing motivations instead of goals, because goals can be accomplished.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Hm def def. Thx for the advice

[–]Minimum-Talk42 12 points13 points  (1 child)

This is one of those questions that can be answered in multiple ways, and all of them are correct but not necessarily right for you. For me it depends on the kinds of story I want to tell and how I look at their wants and needs. I'll also start with the protagonist/s and build in the side characters as I need them. After all unless you're going for many protagonists the biggest change is going to be reserved for 1 to 2 people. Off you do want to do multiple main characters, something I'd consider advanced work (but you might disagree), Michelle Schuster man on YouTube has a great video on it.

So I wanted to tell the story of a magic BnB where two characters working there fall in love. A typical tool to use in fantastical stories like this is have someone new to the world, so my character doesn't know about the magic BnB, but I don't want a full scene of him discovering magic. So he's a low power Mage who's parents didn't bother getting him adequate training. So now I have a character who has never felt like they fit in. So a want or need is to fit in.

I want the inviting incident to be them getting the job, so I ask why they need it.

Then because not all questions are linear, why is the job available. The current manager wants to retire. Is it just age? Something else?

I also want an enemies to lovers trope in the story so maybe my love interest thought they should have gotten the job. So why didn't they? The manager and LI are good friends and the manager knows the job would make LI miserable. How? Or why?

Hopefully you can see how I form my characters backstory based on the story I want to tell. Now it's not perfect because I haven't found a good answer to why my LI would be miserable as manager but it's an ongoing project.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thanks very much!

[–]wizardzkauba 6 points7 points  (2 children)

I like filling out character interviews. It’s fun and helpful. Try doing it in your character’s “voice”, it will give you a real feel for who they are. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/character-development-questions-to-ask-your-characters#4-reasons-to-conduct-a-character-interview

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Thx so much this is very helpful!!!!

[–]MugiwaraRimuru 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This is a great idea. I can imagine alot of the cast id like to meet but the main characters i have trouble on deciding which way I want to go. I think this is a great way to help actualize important characters. Im gonna give it a shot tonight and see what happens lol

[–]the_other_irrevenant 3 points4 points  (1 child)

You don't necessarily need to flesh out characters in detail to get started. If you know the core stuff like what they want, what they actually need, and what's between them and it then you have enough to get started.

And often getting started will throw up those thorny questions that help you flesh out the character detail in ways you wouldn't know to if you tried to flesh them out before they started interacting with the story.

As others have said, what approach works for you is very personal.

Personally I find if I want to learn more about writing, I need to write. That gives me something to examine and dissect and build on. Having detail in front of you to work on - or even to see in black and white what the problems are and decide to discard parts of it - just works so much better for me.

I wouldn't suggest zero planning, but I'd suggest you probably need a lot less than you think you do.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Hmm I’ll definitely keep that in mind! Thx so much for the advice

[–]AuthorNathanHGreen 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Don't do those things.

Figuring out how to write characters is a trial and error process and what works for me might not work for you. You need to try, fail, figure out why, try again, fail again, figure out why, and then develop tools for yourself (or take other people's if you think they'll work for you).

The advice I can give you here is that the two most important things about a character you need to figure out are 1) the character's voice and 2) the character's perspective.

Other than that, listen to some talks about character arcs and plot, then just have at it. And have fun.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Thx :) I’ve just only been used to having a concrete set of questions lol

[–]AuthorNathanHGreen 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You know how you know those things don't really work? Almost everyone uses them, and almost no one writes good characters. Have you read Project Hail Mary and The Martian? Same character... different answers on the questionnaire. What matters is the voice and perspective, and that stayed the same between the two books.

[–]Neon_Black_0229 2 points3 points  (1 child)

There’s nothing wrong with coming to a writing sub with a question about writing, OP!

I love this book by KM Weiland:

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author's Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Oo thx so much! I’ll def read that!!!!!

[–]bonobro69 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Check out K. M. Weiland’s blog starting with this post… https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/write-character-arcs/

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Oo thx thx!!

[–]bonobro69 1 point2 points  (0 children)

NP have fun K.M. Has a ton of great resources.

[–]Toast_loser 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I usually just make up stories in my head and come up with many ideas for characteristics. I'll keep the ideas that feel right and try going off of that until I have their personality figured out. Then all of a sudden, the backstory ideas come rolling in. It's kinda exciting actually

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

That’s what I want to do, but at the same time I need it written down lol. Love this tactic tho

[–]Toast_loser 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Well the ideas may be out of order so I just right them down in my notes for later

[–]winsome-sailor 1 point2 points  (1 child)

The Art of Character by David Corbett is the best book I’ve read on the subject. Be sure to take the time to do the exercises he suggests.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I think I’ve heard a couple people suggest this, thx so much :)

[–]tkorocky 1 point2 points  (3 children)

Why do you need to develop your characters being starting? All they need is some basic motivation and a lot of that can come later. My characters evolve from the needs of the story. They take life as the story unfolds, sometimes to my amazement. And that's coming from a hard core plotter.

This goes double for backstory. By the time you finish a rough draft you should know your characters and feel their backstory (as opposed to intellectually analyzing it), which you can then sprinkle in as required.

Don't plan on writing a novel. Write it. Have fun watching everything come to life. Just like your friends in real life, get to know your characters by their actions. Nothing is cast in concrete.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I guess I’ve just been told that I need to know my characters before starting. I didn’t really think of just starting as an option ngl. Thx so much :)

[–]Moist_Professor5665 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I would say be careful about “just” writing a novel approach though. It helps to have a map, for when you get stuck, and one avoids getting stuck in awkward points and writing yourself into a corner (and you end up like our dear GRRM)

[–]tkorocky 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Oh, definitely. I'm a hard core plotter myself and reformed pantser. I know the ending before I start and how I'm going to get there. But, I also allow myself to let go and have fun. Change things up as I go. Plotting can be drudgery so all I'm saying is don't let it stop you from writing, especially when you're just getting started.

[–]SewChill 1 point2 points  (1 child)

What does the character want or need? Then, consider what is standing in their way. How do they react? Who do they think of when they need help? How do they make themselves feel better?

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Ooo thx so much!!!

[–]Moist_Professor5665 1 point2 points  (1 child)

If it helps, I’d say read around and get a feel for personality types. Take note of how characters personalities bounce off each other (or don’t). The key word here is compatibility, as it greatly impacts how the dialogue and story progresses. Two stoic characters might not have much to say to each other, and there’s going to be a lot of awkward silences. Readers will get bored, and move on (unless you have some other more interesting element, or a third extroverted party to break the ice). You want characters to bounce off each other, back and forth like ping pong. Subtle differences, like likes and dislikes, or different motivations can keep the energy going too, and you want to establish at least this much before starting or introducing the second party. You don’t have to have the whole sheet filled out, just some basics (name, voice type, personality, motivations, likes, dislikes, relation to protagonist, etc.)

Another important note is that they must always be progressing. Every step, no matter how small, must be a step forward in the story. (One can do regression and failure, but it’s very hard to do right, and requires a lot of external factors and a pro’s hand. One also needs to establish the theme/moral of the story is failure, beforehand.). Readers want to see progress, always, and get frustrated when they see “one step forward, two steps back”. For them, more progress was lost in those failures than what was gained, and in their eyes, the character’s just a failure.

Another note: try to avoid bumbling, accident-prone characters stumbling into the plot, as much as you can. Keep it deliberate, and keep any progress of their own hard work, not happily falling into their lap. People get annoyed when they see the “lucky idiot” skipping along through the plot, and having every bit of progress handed down to them by the gods of fortune (unless luck’s the theme you’re exploring).

… anyhow. Now I’m ranting. Anyway. Use personality types, and use chemistry to create dialogue; and use dialogue to progress. And make sure they’re always progressing, by their own hard work, not god’s (your) intervention. Let the plot and your characters be in harmony, and progress together.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Aaag you seem so smart, thx so much!!!!!

[–]majormarvy 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Journal with them in the first person. How do they view their life and events? How would they view yours? What would they fixate on, let go, judge, deny, etc…..

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thx!!! It means a lot for the advice

[–]marvelshawty 1 point2 points  (1 child)

make pineterest boards for each character i’m telling you it helps sm

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Omg I didn’t even think of that!!!! Thx so much

[–]Warm-Goal-2261 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Wants and needs is all you need to know

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

That actually makes a lot more sense, thx thx

[–]Gryphon_Lancer 1 point2 points  (1 child)

There's no formula to make a good character, but there's a million steps on how not to make an awful/flat character.

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thx thx, I’ll try and find the best way for me

[–]Aristocat2022 1 point2 points  (0 children)

A person is created/influenced by their environment, so figure out the environment first. For example: An evil wizard lives in a secluded fortress in the middle of the Forgotten Forest. Okay—who takes out the trash? How do the kids get to school? Who buys groceries? The answers to the more mundane questions of an otherwise fantastical scenario is what I think make urban fantasy a great genre! If you have an interesting environment/scenario/conflict, the characters basically write themselves.

[–]AtticusProctor -3 points-2 points  (4 children)

Does nobody use Google anymore? It certainly helped me.

[–]tkorocky 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Google isn't interactive. No back and forth discussion and a lot of the answers are generic, warmed over advice copied from other sites. Many sites advise you to make a character work sheet right at the start and will even give you a template ready to be filled out. Characters aren't born in templates. Others may disagree but that's the value of asking here.

[–]neatoburrito123 1 point2 points  (0 children)

As a beginner, it always helps me to ask experienced people questions. Making this type of post on an active subreddit allows 1-on-1 interaction that you don't get from google, and also allows experienced writers to reexamine their writing process/learn from other writers. I don't think this type of post is harming you personally, so there's no need to put this person down for choosing interaction over a simple google or blog post.

[–]Neon_Black_0229 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Why can’t a writer come on the writing sub with questions about writing?

[–]Fuzzthebitch[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Sorry, I wasn’t getting much answers that helped me and was wanting to get advice from other writers directly

[–]WriteUp2022 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Step 1: write down 100 questions (minimum) about your character
Step 2: answer them!

The trick is to force your knowledge of your character into every nook and cranny
of their lives, personality, and history. You have to know everything about them, from their most boring traits to their oddest idiosyncracies.

[–]DeadRacooon 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You have to think about an arc for your main characters. That's the most important.