Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: character creation

Where The Heck Do Writers Find Their Characters?


Does that title seem naive—overly simplistic—maybe, misdirected?

Well, anyway, some characters are found in history—some are borrowed from history—some are family or friends—some, somewhat disguised family or friends

Then there are the characters composed from bits of all those sources.

And, while there’s nothing wrong with “borrowing” characters or parts of them (as long as due consideration is given to “making them ‘come to life’ in the plot”), there are many characters out there that are new creations.

Perhaps I should quote a bit of my previous post, What’s The Relationship Between A Writer & Their Characters?:

“…writers have characters. Where do writers get those characters? Why do so many writers talk about their characters as if they were real? And, even more amazing, how in the world could an otherwise rational writer say, with heart-felt conviction, that one of their characters made them change what they intended to write? If you’re not a writer and don’t know anything about writers, you’ll either have to take my word that writers really think their characters can change their minds or do a bit of Googling

Later in that post I say:

“…writers have to struggle with characters to create what we read. They don’t just get born with some weird talent to create fiction that seems real—they work very hard at it, sometimes fight with their characters, usually have to change and grow personally because the characters are spookily right.”

And, as a teaser to what happens in the video I’m going to share, here’s a bit more from that post:

“How does a serious writer live anything like a normal life when things like this are going on in their heads? Some don’t live anything like a normal life. Some ‘control’ the effects of relating to their characters with drugs. Some take refuge in spiritual or psychological realms that ‘explain’ the process. Some create brilliantly for a short time then flame out like a meteor

Two other posts that support my using the video below are Very Special Characters and Very Special Characters ~ Revisited.

There’s one other idea about characters that I can understand but don’t necessarily agree with—all the author’s characters are parts of themselves

The woman in the video is Nina Conti, actress, comedian and ventriloquist.

If showing you a ventriloquist seems like a big stretch, please consider that they also create characters ( unkindly called dummies :-)

And, after watching Nina perform, I’m sure we could meet and discuss character-creation as fellow artists.

Since I’m a writer, I know how strange the relationship with my characters can be

And, if you find Nina’s relationship with her character in the video interesting, you can explore her absolutely surreal relationship with her many other characters in the documentary-story, Her Master’s Voice.

So, I hope you’re as shocked as I was by the relationship between Nina and her monkey in this video and, if you’re a writer, please let me know in the Comments if the video strikes a chord with you relating to your work to make characters Real

[Alert: this video does contain a bit of Strong Language]


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This Page Intentionally Blank is the name of a blog that has a recent post called, Making Characters Real. I saw the title and immediately thought of two posts I’d written: Very Special CharactersVery Special Characters ~ Revisited. I touched on minor, significant, major, very special, and meta characters. But, all characters need a rationale for their being–some underlying psychology that helps the author create them and justifies their actions in the story.

So, up steps Bill Jones, with his blog post on making characters real

Ever feel surprised by something that immediately reminds you of a pleasurable time in your life? Kind of like being swept up and back at the same time.

Bill did that for me by bringing up a personality test I’d studied and used extensively back in the 90s–the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators. That’s the “official page” but you can find a use-it-right-now version by checking out Bill’s blog post.

He sketches-out the way he uses the personality types in the Myers-Briggs system to give substance to his characters as well as find fascinating personality combinations for character interactions.

Bill gives a hint of the usefulness of the personality types by showing his own profile:

“ENTJs are natural born leaders. They live in a world of possibilities where they see all sorts of challenges to be surmounted, and they want to be the ones responsible for surmounting them. They have a drive for leadership, which is well-served by their quickness to grasp complexities, their ability to absorb a large amount of impersonal information, and their quick and decisive judgments. They are ‘take charge’ people.”

I hadn’t answered the profile questions in quite awhile (yes, your profile can change over time) so I took the test again. Here’s my profile:

“To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of ‘definiteness’, of self-confidence. This self-confidence, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature; its source lies in the specialized knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age. When it comes to their own areas of expertise — and INTJs can have several — they will be able to tell you almost immediately whether or not they can help you, and if so, how. INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don’t  know.”

So, I hadn’t changed from the last time I took the test but then I’m 65 and rather settled in my ways :-)

Do check out Bill’s post and, if you take the personality test (it’s relative short), it would be great if you came back and let me know how well it captured your basic nature.

I’d also be intensely interested if you shared how you think this method of sketching out personality could be used in character creation!
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