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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Where Do Fictional Characters Come From?

Top ShelfImage by andyi via Flickr
Fiction writing is utterly dependent on the characters that carry the story, but where do they come from? Mine usually develop initially from gender, age, sexuality and physical type, according to the basic needs of the story outline I carry in my head. At this stage, I usually know only that I need x number of men and women to carry through the plot, such as it is.

The next stage, as the amorphous strands of the story start to cohere, is to find an image resembling the imagined character. I have a file of pictures, gathered during a lifetime of writing, holding a few thousand images of both genders. From this I can usually find a picture that fits my character well enough for the next part of the process.

For this, I use a preformed table in Word, which asks me various questions about the physical attributes of the character: eye, hair and skin colour, age, weight, height, etc. It also has open spaces for such aspects as political, religious, social and relational qualities. I write a short biography and ask some questions of the character and then name the file with the character's chosen moniker and place it in the folder that will eventually contain the story itself.

Because I generally write fiction driven by my characters, I tend to gather my participating people (and animals, where required) together first. Only when I have the cast assembled does the story start to properly develop.

My characters are never identifiable as individuals I know. But I do always use characteristics of associates, both close and distant. And all my characters, good, bad and neutral, contain something of myself, of course.

So, my question for you is this: How do you go about character development and selection? Please place a comment and we can open a discussion here to inform, educate and enlighten all.

Thank you.

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