After reading several good posts on characters and how they appear, I’ve been thinking about how my characters come to be. Never do they spring from my mind, fully formed and grown up as Athena from Zeus’s brow. I kind of envy those whose characters do this.
I’ve realized there are two ways that I come up with characters, but for brevity’s sake I’ll split into two posts.
My characters tend to be more fluid. They evolve from squiggles on paper, mere germs of an idea. I work through the slog, trying to find discernable traits and flaws. Sometimes it takes me years to find a character.
Let’s meet Geoffrey, though not a character in my current piece, he best exemplifies my evolving character flow. He’s also my longest-running character.
Geoff began life seven or eight years ago back when I RPed. He was a banished elven princeling named Lairedion (god awful, ain’t it?) who was a skilled musician, had a pet dragon, and was physically attractive. He also was one of the only male characters in the RP (I just realized this is another reason why I write primarily male characters…the RP world was overpopulated with ass-kicking females). He also was a bit of a wimp, and that was about it.
Geoff soon abandoned his cumbersome name, again got saddled with a new name (Orlando, for the Shakespearean character), and received some terrible injuries. At the time, I would build his character from what had happened in the previous day’s RP. He met new people, got into fights, etc.
Finally, he graduated from the computer screen and became the mentor character in my first serious attempt at a novel. Geoff (now Balor) found religion and saw it as a mission from God to return to the sidhe that had banished him in order to help this kid out. He evolved into a slightly nutty, know-it-all monktype dude, and I am sure as hell glad he isn’t that anymore.
So let’s recount. Lairedion-Orlando-Balor, now FINALLY Geoffrey, is a banished, beautiful elfling. Well, he isn’t an elf anymore (and he is rather normal looking). He’s a, well, human from a different dimension. He also doesn’t have a pet dragon (the only fantasy in this world is the fact that Geoff ages veeery slowly), and his musical skills have failed. He dropped that obnoxious questing kid and set out into life as an innkeeper/amateur historian. Though still very religious, he’s more likely to engage someone in a conversation on a secular subject rather than preach at them. He has opinions, likes, dislikes, desires, flaws, a history…
Geoff finally feels like a real person to me.
10 points to Gryffindor if you can guess where his current name came from!
2 thoughts on “Repeat after me. EVOLUTION.”
I’m sure that Geoff isn’t the only character you’ve created that feels real to you. Characters must feel real to you or they won’t be real to your readers. This is true no matter what kind of fiction you write. For fantasy writers like myself, this is especially important. People may think, well, in fantasy, anything is acceptable. Not so. It is even more important when writing fantasy that your characters feel real to the reader. Often they might be the only link the reader has to reality.
I agree! And not just when reading fiction; biographies and histories should have “characters” who ring true as well.
Geoff isn’t the only one, but he was the first real-feeling character I created.
I’ve reread some of my work from high school and the stories were weak; I chalk it up to a lack of real character development.