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Quick Character Creation Methods

Character creation can be tricky sometimes.  Maybe not so much for your main characters but I definitely find it hard sometimes to create multi-dimensional side characters.  You know, the characters like your protagonist’s best friend or your big villain’s head lackey.  I usually find it very easy to flesh out the big players in my novels but come up short when it comes to those who might get a couple of pages “screen time” throughout the entire story.  Fleshing out your characters will make them unique and easily recognizable to readers.

*Disclaimer*

One small side note before I continue!  A lot of writers say that you should know each and every character intimately regardless of how prolific they are.  Now, personally, I say this is a matter of choice over how much detail you want to go into.  I don’t usually know the Tragic Backstory(tm) of Walk-on Mary who tells Tadashi and Hiro that Professor Callaghan is still inside the burning building when I write.  Nor do I care to as it creates more work in the long run that readers will never see.  If you are one of those writer’s then more power to you.  However, that’s a topic for a completely separate blog post!

What’s this woman’s backstory? We may never know…

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post!

I’ve rounded up four different methods that make the character creation process a bit quicker.  Whether it’s a main character you’re struggling with or if you need a bit of assistance with building some interesting side characters to populate your novel, archetypes, MBTI, Astrology, and Tarot cards all offer unique and different ways to help you build characters utilizing preexisting traits, quirks, and characteristics.  None of these options force you to start from absolute scratch.  Though if you felt the need to mix and match different characteristics to build a unique character to fit into your story.

character creation

Archetypes

Out of all four of these tools, archetypes are probably the most well known.  We see them all the time in movies, television, books, and other media.  Archetypes are stock characters that most people are familiar with.  I’ll name a few:

  • The Alpha Girl (or Guy)/Cheerleader: Heather Chandler (Heathers), Cordelia (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter)
  • The Wise Mentor: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Doc Hudson (Disney Pixar’s Cars)
  • The Smart Guy (or Girl): Sailor Mercury (Sailor Moon), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Simon (Firefly)

 

Look! It’s the wicked witch archetype in disguise with her mortal enemy the innocent maiden archetype!

Archetypes tend to be the go to resource for writers who need a quick, simple character.  There are literally hundreds of them because they’ve been around since Plato.  Each archetype comes with it’s own defined characteristics that can be found among other characters across various stories.  They have also been expanded upon by author after author.  Carl Jung, a psychologist from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s, helped to further define what each archetype entailed.  This blog post from NowNovel.com discusses some of these archetypes more in depth.  It also includes some helpful hints on goals and fears for character motivation.  You can also mix and match certain traits and characteristics of these archetypes to create new ones.  The evil mad scientist archetype is simply a remix of the genius smart guy and the dark lord archetypes.

For some ideas on how to remix archetypes for your own character creation process, check out this chart!

MBTI

MBTI, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator if you like long words, is one of the most comprehensive personality tests out in the wide world of the internet today.  You’ve probably seen MBTI charts on pinterest or tumblr categorizing your favorite book/movie/television characters into one of these personality types.  It’s the hot thing to do at the moment right up there with sorting your favorite characters into Hogwart’s houses.

In total, there are sixteen different personality types that measure a person’s dominate character traits.  Each one is a combination of four different dichotomies, or splits, in an individual’s personality.  Kind of like facets.  They are marked with a corresponding letter that creates an unique personality type.  Well-Storied has a pretty in depth article about MBTI and how to use it with regards to your characters.  If you just need something quick and easy though take a look at this chart.  It’s more in depth than I could ever be.  All of the sixteen of the personality types are described and detailed in it.

Image from Wikipedia courtesy of Jake Beech.  Turned into a link because I got eyestrain just thinking about trying to read it here.

I’m not sure how well mixing and matching personality types would work with MBTI.  I think it would simply end up changing the entire personality type but you could always try it and see what happens.  However, you’re more than welcome to try it out.  Tomi Adeyemi suggests taking the characters that you already have and then applying MBTI personalities to them for more inspiration.  This works really well if you just need to further flesh out your characters.  If you’re starting from scratch though, consider just picking a personality type that fits your needs best based on the given descriptions for your character creation.

Astrology and Zodiac

Astrology and the zodiac is another good place to look for inspiration when it comes to character creation.  In fact, it happens to be my most favorite.  These have been around for a very long time.  At it’s simplest form it’s the study of how celestial bodies move through the sky and effect events on Earth.  It’s all very subjective and I’ve never been one to believe in the tell of horoscopes to predict my future.  However, I find something incredibly interesting behind the wide variety of signs and symbols.

 

Sun sign zodiac, used in those cheesy horoscopes that tell you Mr./Mrs. Right will walk into you at the coffee shop.  Probably going to spill hot coffee on you.

Sun sign astrology is the zodiac that most Westerner recognize.  Aries, Capricorn, Virgo, and the rest of the twelve signs are usually what we focus on since they are the most familiar.  Bryn Donovan has written a series of posts that focuses on writing each of the twelve zodiac signs.  She covers both the good and the negative traits that are associated with each sign.  Useful when you need to come up with a handful of flaws for your characters to make them more well rounded.  Because astrology and the zodiac has been around so long, it’s super easy to find other inspirations.  Like with archetypes, traits from each sign can be mixed and  matched so that no two characters are exactly alike.

If the sun sign astrology doesn’t feel right for you or your looking for something different, try one of the many other zodiacs or astrology systems.  Just about every culture has one.  While many of them are similar, there are enough differences to separate them.  Try the Chinese zodiac or Celtic astrology for something a little off the beaten path.

Tarot

My last tool for quick character creation is a bit off the beaten path.  Tarot uses cards to usually predict the future or to gain insight on events that are happening.  Each card carries a specific set of meanings and is usually up to the person reading the cards to interpret.  It’s very subjective and because of this some people are skeptical on whether or not a set of cards can tell you what the future holds.  Regardless of whether or not you believe in telling the future with a few cards, tarot still lends itself to be an unique approach to character creation.

One of the really cool things is that though there are specific meanings for the cards, there are still several ways of interpreting those meanings.  It might make it super confusing for predicting the future but it makes it interesting for writing.  I love how open ended it is and the creativity it allows.  Several spreads exist for using tarot as a writing aide but it can be as simple as choosing three cards from the deck at random for a character’s positive traits, negative traits, and motivation or really any aspect you’re looking for.

Maybe not the easiest first spread to use but it’s definitely thorough.

Writing After Dark has a specific, more in depth, spread of cards specifically for creating characters.  There’s also some directions and an example on how to interpret your cards.  She uses a spread that I’ve seen floating around on pinterest.  I’ve got it on my list of spreads to try when I need some inspiration for some characters of my own.  There’s also another example spread at Writing One Word At a Time.  She also has some resources if you aren’t familiar with tarot cards and their meaning.

 

There you have it!  Four tools for quick character creation.  The next time you need some inspiration try one of these out and let me know what you think.  Which one do you think will fit your needs best?  Let me know in the comments below.  Or better yet, send me a link to your characters’ profile so I can check out your handy work!

Want more?
  • Looking for your next story starter or perhaps something to bust up writer’s block?  Dig through my writing prompts!
  • Looking for something interesting and free to read?  Check out Enchantress on either Tapas or Wattpad!

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Boring (Adventures in Writing…)

This scene is boring.  How can I spice it up?  Add small children that will be caught up in a monster fight to come.

Yep… that will work…

I think I have a problem.

To clarify: no children will be killed, maimed, or harmed in the making of this scene.

Continue reading “Boring (Adventures in Writing…)”

Writing Prompt #57

“Fireflies”

The inspiration for this prompt came from a campout that I did during the summer.  When the sky got dark there were hundreds of fireflies in the trees that surrounded the field.  Every time they lit up it looked like there were stars hanging just above us.  It was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Writing Prompt #57

Fireflies sparkled and danced in the branches.  At night they looked like stars close enough to touch.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

I also published a serial story called Enchantress.  Find it here on Tapas or Wattpad!

Writing Prompt #56

“World Portal”

If there are two things I love to read, they are portal fantasies and stories about parallel universes.  This prompt combines the two.  What could be so important that your character’s alternate self needs their help?  How do the two characters differ?  They might be the same character essentially but how have their experiences shaped them.  Maybe one world is like our own, without magic but with technology, and the other relies solely on magic.  Or perhaps the alternate world has technology that’s way more advanced than our own.

Writing Prompt #56

You find a mirror at an antique store.  You decide to buy it but when you get it home, you realize buying it was no coincidence.  It’s a portal to another world and your counterpart needs your help.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

Writing Prompt #55

“Dragon’s Harp”

I like the idea of a musical instrument that can summon creatures.  What would you do if you came into possession of a harp that could summon dragons?  How did you even find something like that?  Could it be one instrument out of several that summons creatures?  Personally, I would explore how such an instrument came into being.  That’s up to you though!

Writing Prompt #55

The harp, it was said, summoned dragons.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

Writing Prompt #54

“The Lord’s Daughter”

This is one of those prompts where I invite you to see just how “easy” you can make this character’s job.  Use Murphy’s Law.  Anything that can go wrong, does.  Perhaps someone attacks the castle while this guard and the Lord’s daughter are out playing in the waterways.  Maybe the two of them find something strange.  You might even decide to make this the start of some grand adventure for them.  It’s up to you.  Let’s see if this “easy” job is what he expected it to be.

Writing Prompt #54

It was a relatively easy gig.  Watch the Lord’s daughter as she played in the castle waterways.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

Writing Prompt #53

“Beast”

I love a good monster character.  They can be incredibly complex and interesting characters.  What I love more than a monster is the relationship between monsters and other people.  Write the story behind this beast and the girl.  Why does she feel sorry for him/her/it?  Does it have anything to do with the blood on her hem?

Writing Prompt #53

The beast was hideous with black leather wings and a snout that seemed to be shoved into it’s face.  However, as she stepped closer to the haggard figure with it’s blood on her dress’s hem, she couldn’t help but pity it.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

Writing Prompt #52

“Forest Intruders”

Here’s a fantasy type prompt for you today on this Friday.  Imagine your character up on high in the trees, watching as travelers wander about their forest home.  Why are these intruders in the forest?  What threat might they hold?  Or could this perhaps be a misunderstanding in the making?

Writing Prompt #52

Intruders?  In her forest?  There was no way she was going to stand for it! She pulled an arrow from her quiver.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

Looking for something to read and feeling adventurous?  Check out my serial Enchantress!  Find it here on Tapas or Wattpad!

Writing Prompt #51

“Young Traveler”

Everyone remembers their first solo trip.  I was fourteen or fifteen the first time my family allowed me to travel by myself.  However, that’s not at all young in comparison to some travelers.  Sometimes when I see the especially young children in the airport, I wonder where it is that they’re going.  Write about a character who is either young and traveling or someone who sees a younger character traveling.  Are they strangers?  Would the older character approach the younger?

Writing Prompt #51

The child seemed to be too young to be waiting on their own for the train.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!

Writing Prompt #50

“Useful Trinkets”

Think about walking through the market.  You’re looking for something but you’re not entirely sure what it is.  Maybe you’re setting off on a quest  soon and you’re trying to fill your pack with things.  Perhaps you have this sinking feeling that you’re missing something vital.  Whatever it is, you happen across a small store at the very back of the market.  The merchant calls out to you, beckoning you closer.  None of their items make a lot of sense.  They’re weird.  However, they assure you that what ever you chose will come in handy.

Writing Prompt #50

The merchant at the very back of the market sells the strangest but most useful trinkets.

Remember!  Anything that you write using this prompt for inspiration is one hundred percent yours!  Tweak this prompt to fit your needs or use it as a jumping point to start your novel, short story, or chapter!

If this prompt doesn’t quite fit for you, check out some of my other writing prompts here!  Remember!  If you enjoy my writing prompts then be sure to share them and consider subscribing for more writing prompts like this one!

If you’ve used one of my prompts and want to share it then share the link in the comments!