How to Create New Characters

This is one that’s different for everyone. How I do it is probably very different from how you do. But if you’re stuck in a creative rut, how do you come up with someone new to write about?

My first step is always to grab a pen and paper – no matter what I’m brainstorming. I find scribbling on paper more satisfying as well as more visually appealing than typing random word in list form in a word doc. (Yes, I know I said I’m obsessed with lists a while back. I am. Doesn’t mean they have to be digital in format.) I’ve been doing this brainstorming on paper since I was a child in elementary school when we first started learning how to brainstorm anything using the little cloud drawing with baby clouds surrounding it that you write all of your words in.

Once you’ve got your pen and paper, get back here. Good? Okay. I’m going to give you a few examples of how to do this. It’s always good to have more than one approach to something like this, as some things work better for some than for others.

Method #1

This is how I usually do it, and I’ve already written a post about it in detail, but I’ll summarize in this post.

The first method is going to be easier for artists. It starts a little differently as well, needing a sketchbook and pencil rather than pen and notebook. In a nutshell, this method starts with drawing. You start drawing, adding details that feel right, tweaking as you see fit, until you have a finished product. It could be a fairly simple sketch. I usually don’t spend too much time sketching my brand new characters, as I find it’s much easier to draw in detail the characters I already know. But it is a way to help get the general look of your character down.

Once you’ve got that drawing done, sit  back and look at what you’ve drawn. Imagine what type of person he or she would be. (This is where you grab your notebook and a pen.) Write down anything that comes to mind, from traits to history to names. Anything. Or you could really just do it on the drawing itself so they don’t get separated. I just label my drawings with the name of that character and keep the real brainstorming separate, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.

You could walk away now, leave that brainstorming session for a few days, weeks even, but don’t forget to go back to it if you do. Or you can continue without ever walking away. Scratch off anything that doesn’t work – maybe two traits that you don’t see working together or things that contradict.

And there you have it! That’s method number one. It’s that easy.

Method #2

This one is easier for those of you who can’t draw. I know it’s a skill not everyone has, so the first method I explained may not work for everyone. That’s okay. There are other ways of doing this. This method is the classic method (at least it was classic for me) for brainstorming a character.

It involves a notebook and pen, just like the method above, but without the drawing. This one is the same as above, only you start by just jotting down traits and characteristics on the paper. write down anything that comes to mind that you’d like your character to have, scratch out anything that won’t work, and move on. It is that simple if you’re inspired enough.

And if you aren’t feeling that inspiration? Keep reading, I have help for you too.

Method #3

If you’re feeling exceptionally blocked, and nothing is really flowing creatively, there is always Google. Or any other search engine you may use. Or Pinterest, which is a treasure trove of inspiration for when you have none. Just search for something random, maybe just great female character ideas, or something along those lines. See what other people are doing, what works for them, and what you think might work for you. I’m not saying take someone’s character, change the name, and call it yours. That’s stealing. Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t.

But what you can do is take traits from some of your own favourites and use those. There are also some really awesome charts to help you come up with ideas, like the ones found here. There are plenty of resources out there to help writers create the perfect story. The ones through that link are only a handful.

You can also base your new creation on a celebrity or person or musician that you like, or someone who inspires you. Or someone you’d like to fictionally kill. That’s always a fun one for your villains. Either way, this method is just a way to kickstart your brainstorming when you are drawing a blank.

So there you have it! Those are only a few options, and I may write a second part to this post in the future. I only wanted to cover the basics in this post just to help you get the juices flowing creatively so that you may be able to get some work done with that story you’ve been dying to write.

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4 thoughts on “How to Create New Characters

  1. J.A. Prentice says:

    I generally use a sort of unorganized mix of these three approaches: visually picturing characters, thinking about character traits, and borrowing from other characters or real people. Most of the time I end up developing them as I write.

  2. fireofnorea says:

    I do a combination of letting plot lead me and then listening to them as they grow and take over the plot. Some come to me more quickly than others, but I tend not to dwell on specific physical attributes, as I think it will be different for each reader and I don’t want to dominate a reader’s experience. And this is one aspect of writing that is very different for every author, though

  3. JSM says:

    I’ve tried Method #1 and can say it’s not just for the artists. I like to think of myself as somewhere between poor and terrible at sketching, but if I’m the only one who sees it I don’t mind that my new character looks more like a trodden-on hotdog than a human.Sometimes beating up a piece of paper with a pencil is just what’s needed to get the creativity flowing 🙂

    • Kimberley Crawford says:

      I can totally agree with that, I always feel better after putting pencil to paper in some way or another. It makes me feel somewhat more accomplished than just opening up a file for brainstorming.

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