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Source for Creating Characters: Yourself. -- by Andrew Mcqueen

Your first, best source for characters is your own personality.

Writing For Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David, page 46

When creating characters for your stories the greatest challenge is making them "real". Personality traits. Flaws. Character tics. Take your pick. But did you know you can add something really cool to your characters...Yourself.

Well, not all of yourself into them. Just bits and pieces. Your past to your experiences as a high school teacher. We writers invest aspects of ourselves to create identifiable characters in a manner of ways. For instance, Diana Rowland has poured in all her years in law enforcement for her Kara Gillian series, giving it the realism not all crime solving/urban fantasy books have. Comics icon Stan Lee would tell you about the "origin" of Spider-Man from his teenage years when he was, to a degree, a lonely kid desperate for acceptance.

When writing my own stories, I've plucked a few things from my own personality to add to my characters, and some were without even knowing it. I named a character Andre McDyess from "Andre" short for my name and McDyess after former NBA player Antonio McDyess. Plus, I gave him five percent of my sense of humor. My superheroine in a comic book series was crafted from my experiences in a US History course at a community college, and I equipped her with some of my own quirks, like coffee and Pop Tarts for breakfast when on the go. Sorry, no super powered mayhem involved. One of my most flawed aspects I'm not proud of is being a smart ass. That's what I share with another one of my characters because let's face it, we all have that one friend or relative who'll shoot his/her mouth off. 

The more honest you are about yourself, the more you can give readers something to identify with in terms of characterization.

*Here are tips to putting aspects of yourself into your characters.

  • Don't hold back. 

In according to Peter David's book on writing comics, writers have to be willing to metaphorically drop their guard and invite the world to take a shot at them. If there are aspects of yourself that you really don't lik, be willing to explore them within a fictional construct. That way you can create a compelling character and find out interesting things about yourself.

  • Take the positive attributes and explore them as negatives. 

For instance: A gentle car salesman with an engaging personality. Write a character study that depicts him as a life coach, motivating people who seek improvement.

A gentle car salesman with an engagning personality. Write a character study that depicts him as a sociopath with ulterior motives that are dangerous to others.

Now if you're really feeling adventerous, you can even write a story in which the sociopath is the gentleman's identical twin, leading lives that takes them both on a collison course with each other.

Happy Creations!

*Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David, pg. 46.

(Modified from blog post Dreaming in my own Words, October 2016).





Posted by Andrew Mcqueen 9 Feb 2018 at 00:33
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Responses to this blog

Rellrod 11 Feb 2018 at 03:45  
I think this is the right approach. You don't write yourself into a story as an author avatar; you just raid yourself for bits and pieces, as you would any other person or situation.

For instance, the heroine of House of Stars isn't wild about wine or beer, but has a sweet tooth that makes soft drinks or sweet liqueurs appeal to her — as with me. On the other hand, IIRC, I allowed her to like coffee, which I've never developed a taste for. So she isn't a copy of my tastes even in that respect — just borrows some features to make her distinctive.

Imjustdru 11 Feb 2018 at 04:02  
Yep. It's also amazing how writers take a part of themselves into their characters and the reader can see how they relate to them. Of course, their traits are opposite of our own (patient vs impatient, extrovert vs introvert, and what have you).

Peter David put his disdain for being slowed down into Quicksilver in an issue of X-Factor that identified with fans.
Paulpowell 12 Feb 2018 at 16:45  
I am a firm adherent to these principles; but a good pal of mine (and fellow writing crony) believes the opposite. He believes the very definition of fiction is that it is completely made-up, falsified, fantastic, and unreal.

Reasoning? It makes no sense to me, but he goes so far as to claim that fiction itself is supposed to be unreal at all times. He defines the purpose of fiction purely as escapism.

I take the academic approach and point out that most of the popular genre fiction we 'escape with' today, only bloomed with the industrial revolution. Therefore the definition of fiction can not be cut down so narrowly so as to suit such a recent trend. Fiction over the broader course of history has served many other purposes besides mere escapism.

Literature can provoke substantial levels of thought and feeling. Adults often read realistic fiction to re-acquaint and re-identify themselves with our interiorality. We're not running away from our lives, (as often happens with cinema). We're trying to find new depths within ourselves.

Therefore, authors who write with some degree of their own authentic experiences are always going to be a cut above ninjas, cowboys, pirates, aliens, robots, vampires, or zombies.

We don't see eye-to-eye on this. It always opens a can of worms.

Paul Powell, Pool Player

Hhymovitch 1 Mar 2018 at 00:06  
I definitely agree with the approach to creating characters. Most of my characters have some personality trait that I have or some personality trait I want. I can totally relate.

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