As a writer one of the most enjoyable aspects of creating a new novel is giving birth to new characters. Who are they? What drives them? What little oddities will make them endearing?
I’m an avid reader and that’s probably why I love writing so much. I grew up as an only child and spent countless hours pouring my heart and soul into books. I wanted to escape, to become someone that I could never dream to become in real life. But in order for me to desire that I needed a character that I could relate to.
There are several key “ingredients” that are required to make a solid character.
1. They need to be unique. If I open a book and read a card board cut out I immediately put it down. I want a protagonist that isn’t always a blonde hair, blue eyed bombshell. Give me stubby toes, chipped fingernails, frizzy hair and thick rimmed glasses that sit askew on the bridge of an oily nose. Think unique gender, body shape, eye color, hair color and length, ethnicity, clothing style, profession and age.
2. There must be specific goals. Why does she/he get out of bed every morning? What are they afraid of? What little neurotic voices hinder their lives? Who do they want to be when they grow up (physically and mentally)?
3. I want quirks. Give me a nail biter, a knuckle popper, an obsessive compulsive, or a chocoholic. Make them unique. Demand that they stand out among the crowd.
4. Flaws. Oh yeah, I want them to be flawed. Now let me state first that I’m not evil in my love of flaws. I want my characters to be happy…someday. But honestly, what’s entertaining about someone who sees all sunshine and roses throughout the entire book? BORING! I want issues with the image in the mirror, sneaking a cig in the bathroom on school grounds, trouble with self esteem, an illness. Something to make them human and not superman.
5. Co-characters. Ok, this is a biggie for me. Since I write teen fantasy, I need characters that grab your attention but don’t steal the thunder. I need interesting, but not overbearing. Cute but not gorgeous. Loveable but not smitten. You get my drift.
6. Most importantly. You need an enemy. Someone who can stand toe to toe with your hero and not back down. The epic battle, no matter how small and insignificant you might consider it to be, needs to be set in stone. No weak enemies please! They need to be just as well thought out as the protagonist. And I want to know WHY they do what they do? Give me back story but don’t flood me with useless details.
So, with that being said, I want to give you a simple example of my process. I will use the main character from my new teen fantasy trilogy, Forbidden.
Name: Roseline Enescue
Ethnicity: Romanian, non human, Immortal
Hair: bronze, curls around her waist
Eye color: aqua, glows from within at times
Age: Appears to be a senior in high school, actually 322 years old
Skin tone: Pale, hauntingly beautiful
Body type: slender, curvy
Relationship status: Married to Vladimir Enescue (Dracula), dating Gabriel Marston (highschool football star/closet artist)
Personality: cautious but fiercely loyal
Goals: wants to live the life that was taken from her, hide who she is to fit in with humans so she can experience what being a teen is really like. To be free of the vampire stigma and her husband’s abusive hand.
Fears: being found by her husband, her identity discovered, endangering her new friend’s lives, losing Gabriel
Flaws: rebellious, sheltered, feels unworthy of human love, fears unleashing her bitterness towards her husband
Quirks: able to physically regenerate would wounded with the aid of human blood, is immortal, secretes a hormone that drives male’s wild, increased speed, strength, scent, superior reflexes and vision.
Support: Sadie (spunky best friend who adamantly fights for her right to wear whatever she likes by shifting through several wardrobe fascinations). William (Sadie’s surfer styled brother who follows Roseline around like a love sick puppy), Gabriel (football star whose hidden desires are best portrayed by his secret art gallery in his attic). Fane (handsome Immortal friend who taught Roseline everything she knows, kept her sane over the passing years and instigated a spicy fling once or twice). Nicolae (broody Romanian foreign exchange student who watches Roseline’s every move with hawk like vision, fiercely protective over Sadie, and is hiding a big secret).
Enemy: Husband Vladimir Enescue who slaughtered her entire family on their wedding night. Sacrificed Roseline’s younger sister in front of her eyes and used her blood to transform Roseline into an Immortal. And Lucien Enescue, Vladimir’s brother whose love of sadistic mass murders and debauchery are rivaled by none.
Conflict: Roseline has lived her entire life under the false myth that she and her family are vampires. After centuries of trying to bring out the monster in Roseline, her husband Vladimir finally turns his attentions to a new mistress which gives Roseline the chance to escape.
Upon fleeing to America, Roseline inserts herself into a Chicago prep school with the hopes of blending in. But after a series of events, Roseline finds herself stuck in the spotlight. Friendships are formed, a forbidden romance ensues, and Roseline is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. Stay in her new life and risk the death of her friends, or return to the man she fears most of all to save those she loves.
Forbidden is filled with ups and downs, tension and release. A page turner until the very end. But the conflict doesn’t end there. It’s only the beginning.
This is a basic idea of how to create a character. Think outside the box. Don’t try to repeat anything you’ve read or watched in a movie. Let your imagination go and have fun. I’d love to hear what you come up with!