As requested by my followers, today, I want to focus on creating strong characters that can carry your fantasy story.
Now in terms of what is more important, plot or characters, I have an equivocal opinion.
They are both equally important.
Let me tell you why. Your characters are the ones who are going to drive the story. Their decisions, their thought processes, and their emotions will influence every tiny detail of your plot. More than often than not, your characters will also change the direction of your story entirely, leading you to create new plot points that you may never have thought of before.
When I am creating my main characters, I want them to be as complete as possible. I want to know exactly what they look like, where they come from, and their strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, I rely on this pdf tool from EpiGuide that I discovered around age 13.
The link above will send you to a full length character questionnaire/profile with a fairly comprehensive set of questions geared toward authors looking to get deep inside their character’s heads. Now, when you first open the document, you may think it is insanely long. And truth be told, it is. It takes me a few hours to come up with responses and fill things out. However, when I’m finished, I feel like I have a much better understanding of my characters, and my writing always improves by incorporating little details from this profile.
So. What kind of information are you going to create through this character profile?
- Basic information: Name, nicknames, birthday, hometown, basic information about their home, job, and relationships (if applicable)
- Physical appearance: very detailed questions about physical features as well as the character’s general style (what type of clothes they wear and any prominent accessories
- Speech and Language/Communication: This section is one of my favorites; it’s really interesting and something you wouldn’t normally think about. These questions focused on the way your character communicate. Do they have an accent? Any words or phrases that they traditionally use? What about body language?
- Everyday Behavior/Habits: This section is going to include things like what a typical day for your character looks like, any personal habits that they may subscribe to, as well as their skills and hobbies.
- Family of Origin: basic information about the character’s family and their relationship to their family.
- The Past: Past events and memories that have shaped the way the character is today.
- Relationships to Others: This section is very important. Not only do the questions help you discover how your character relates to people they know, but also people in places of authority, strangers, people less fortunate, etc. It also includes questions about how other people view your character: what their reputation is to the outside world.
- Mental Attitude and Personal Beliefs: These questions go deep into a character’s personal values, fears, and mental outlook on life. It also helps to identify a character’s core strengths and weaknesses. A personal favorite section of mine, I think this is the most important of the entire questionnaire.
- Likes/Favorites: A fun set of identification questions to round out your character’s favorite things.
Now, this is a lot of information to take in. But I would like to point it that this is not mandatory, nor the end-all be-all of character design. It is a tool to help you create and think about what are going to be the driving forces behind your characters that will move the plot forward. Personally, I utilize these solely for my main set of characters: my main character, love interest (if applicable), and important secondary characters who have a constant presence (and even for these, I don’t necessarily answer every question).
What I hope for my readers is that this tool that I am sharing with you will inspire you to dig deeper when creating your characters, help to identify areas you may not have considered during character design, and will help you on your journey to writing a fantastic piece of fantasy literature.