Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Character creation goes beyond the two dimensional. When I asked Twitter’s #WritingCommunity how we craft our characters, the answers were varied and fascinating. During this week’s #AuthorNook discussion, writers touched on everything from digging into the history books to exploring a character’s life since their birth. Some authors created detailed charts, while others studied people they know irl. But the thing that seemed to connect us all, that tied all the variations together was curiosity. The desire to know more is the driving force behind our character creation.
A good character speaks to us and inspires us to explore. It's not really something that can be contrived. It is a feeling, a knowing, an instinct. Our characters come form a place deep within us. And although our methods of exploration may vary, our drive to know our characters, to understand them, remains similar. This week’s blog post looks at three different authors’ methods of exploration including visualization, daydreaming, and exploring ancient myths.
I hope you enjoy! And please join the conversation in the comments if you’d like. How do you craft your characters? What drives you to know more about them?
Samantha L. Eno
I think the best way I can describe my process of character creation is this: it’s a messy combination of inspiration, originality, and a whole lot of daydreaming.
My mind is constantly running amok with stories, characters, anything my imagination can get its hands on. I’ve always been that way, for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, a character will come to me through a song, and sometimes it’ll happen through a show I’ve seen or even from a character I’ve shown particular interest in. I have this... “garden” inside my head. There’s soil everywhere, and the seeds are constantly feeding off the sunlight that is my imagination, drinking in the concepts that rain from the sky... They start out as seeds, and many of them grow into saplings, while others unfortunately dry out and wither away. But those who do make it, they grow and grow and grow until they’re vibrant flowers that never wilt because I’ve become attached to them.
One such example, Yuki Sakura of “Hikari’s Wish”... He was the first to guide me along my writing journey, and so like the others I’ll treat him with great care, because every character, no matter how good or evil, deserves a chance to speak out, and only their creators can do just that. Like I’ve said before, I am my characters’ voices. I speak for them so that their stories can be told.
Samantha Eno is an author who mainly writes YA "slice of life", stories of emotion and deep character development. Currently, she is working on "The Stars That Snow: A Hikari's Wish", a prequel to the events of "Hikari's Wish", a tale about heart, inner strength, and what it means to keep a promise. An animal mom, she has a boxer named Jerry Lee and a British Shorthair named Anastasia, both of whom keep her on her toes every day!
Myth can be an endless well from which authors draw inspiration! By the very nature of ancient mythology, stories are designed to enthrall readers and make imagination soar.
History and legend are beautifully blended in a way that makes readers dream of the fantastical tales constructed long ago, and wonder if these events were true. My own works are heavily influenced by various myths, specifically my Tales of the Black Rose Guard series.
The tale of Tristan and Isolde hails from Arthurian legend. In the myth, Tristan, a knight of Cornwall, falls hopelessly in love with his uncle’s intended bride, a princess of Ireland. The two are forced to be separated in life, as the marriage between Tristan’s uncle, King Mark, and Tristan’s love, Isolde, would end a war between their two kingdoms. However, after death, the forbidden lovers are buried beside one another; and from their graves bloom a vine and a rose which constantly entwine as a symbol of their eternal devotion. The novel, Black Rose, features enchanted roses which magically connect my main characters, Mara and Edward, as the lovers continually find their way back to each other, in spite of the forbidden nature of their romance.
Another example from my own work is found in my novel Immortal Skye, which was inspired from a Selkie myth I was told while visiting the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Selkie are said to be shapeshifters who can transform from seals to human. Per Scottish lore, who whoever possesses a Selkie’s sealskin shall also possess their heart. It inspired my story, which is a romantic tale between a vampire princess and a Selkie knight who saves her life on the silvery shores of Skye.
My characters just appear in my head, typically the main characters first in the starting scene of the book. As I see “movies” in my head when I write, my characters talk, act, remember and evolve, and I basically write what I see and hear. I write as I go and don’t plan anything out. This goes for my characters too. I don’t “build” them, they just exist. Their backstories come as the story evolves. The character will remember something and I just write it down. It is like living inside their heads. I will see their memories and remember with them.
These can be actually quite surprising and sometimes shocking too. In my Ancient Rome trilogy, there were many flashbacks in both my MCs’ life where I had a hard time writing them down. There are also some bittersweet memories in my book “Fall”. Some of those will be influenced, without me consciously thinking about it, by real life events that happened to me.
Same for the characters, because they are born inside of my head. Most will carry some traits of my personality, to some extent, but some not at all. I also have side-characters who will grow out their minor role and that can also be surprising sometimes. I got praised on Jake’s character arc in “Fall” and I just sat there and thought, none of this has been planned out, this is who Jake is, how he evolved in the story.
When I got feedback on the book, readers talked about the characters as if they were alive… it is possibly because they truly are to a certain extent. I love it when new main characters appear in my head at the beginning of the book, and reveal themselves, same for other characters who will join them as I write. It is always a discovery and an exciting adventure!
Maxime is an author who writes about guys falling in love in various places and times. Although the books could be labelled as MM romance laced with erotica, they do not fit a single genre, and are filled with drama, and sometimes darkness. Maxime likes to explore complex emotions, the journey to self-discovery, and living a life true to oneself, and their characters often struggle before finding happiness. Maxime often incorporates elements of their Hungarian and French origins in their works.
In their free time, Maxime likes to spend time with their family, ride their horse, or walk their dog on hikes. Maxime writes next to a fulfilling career in international education. Find Maxime on Twitter @MaximeJaz, Instagram @maximejaz, and linktr.ee/MaximeJaz.