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Creating Characters For a Short Story

By Mervyn Love

Unless you're a 'natural' at it, creating a living, breathing, believable character for your story can seem daunting. Are her eyes gray or blue? Should he walk tall or have a limp? Is she level headed or quick to loose her cool? There are so many aspects to creating a character, but by following this step-by-step formula, you can soon have your character ready to leap off the page.

In a short story, which in practice is normally 1,000 to 3,000 words, you simply haven't got room to fully describe a character to your reader. On the other hand your characters should be real to you personally so that you can make them behave in an authentic way.

1. What do they look like?

Some authors would say start by describing who they are rather than what they look like, but to me, a character's physical appearance always comes first so that's where I'll begin.

Take pen and paper and jot down the following physical characteristics: Hair and eye colour, hair style, complexion, age, build, slim or plump. You can do this in 50 words or less. And remember, once you have the basic description, you can always tweak it later. Get a clear picture of your character in your mind's eye.

2. Background

Where were they born and where did they grow up? Jot down their country of origin, county or state, town, city or village. What were their parents names? What schooling did they have? What jobs have they had, and what job do they have now? Are they married or single? Any children? See all this in your mind's eye so that their background begins to come to life for you. All this stuff will affect how they think and react to different situations. Jot it down briefly to begin with.

3. Likes and dislikes

What food do they like, are they a drinker? Are they into sport, pets, hobbies? What music do they listen to and what movies do they like? What is their favourite food and what can't they stand? Do they have pet hates or phobias? Get this all down on paper, but keep it short.

4. Character

Now we come to what they are like as a person. What is their temperament? Easy going? Short tempered? Anxious, easily vexed? Are they strong willed or easily led by others? Are they forgiving or do they not suffer fools gladly? Are they loving and outgoing or timid and introspective? Jot it all down and try to build inside your head just what kind of person they are on the inside.

Now bear in mind that not all this information may come out in your story. The reader may never know that your character's hobby is needle point, or that they grew up in poverty in a Welsh mining village, but you, the writer, will know and this will help you give your character the proper responses, accent and reactions as they brush up against the other characters in your story.

By this time you should know what their name and age is. You may have known that from the start, but if so do you want to change either one now you know your character better?

As a writer you should try to make your characters living, breathing, believable people. And ideally, you want your reader to develop an emotional connection with them. How do you want your readers to respond to them? Do you want the reader to love them, dislike them, be amused by them? Getting the details of the character down on paper as we did above will help you to craft the characters your readers will respond to.


About the Author:

Mervyn Love offers a warm welcome and a stress free zone for all writers at his website: WritersReign.co.uk Here you can relax and browse pages of advice, resources, competition listing, markets and much more. There are two free courses to inspire you: Creative Writing and Article Writing which have proved extremely popular, so why not sign up now while you're thinking about it? http://www.writersreign.co.uk



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