My son and I are creating characters for his story. So that we have nice, rounded characters that feel real, these are the questions we have asked ourselves:
1) what is your character called?
2) how old are they?
3) are they male/ female/ neither, are they human, and if not, what are they?
4) do they run away from danger, or run towards it?
5) if somebody is hurt, does the character stay to help, go and get help, or run away?
6) would they rather look after a small child, or fix a machine?
7) which characteristic is dominant (there are two words to describe similar but slightly different attributes):
– bravery/glory hunting,
– wisdom/seeking knowledge,
– ambition/ seeking power or
8) would the character prefer to solve a problem alone, or with their friends?
9) does the character trust people immediately, or are they suspicious of others?
Thinking about these elements gives great opportunity to set up conflict, which is essential for any story. For example Maisie is an eleven year old, she doesn’t like dangerous situations, and would prefer to run and get help than fix a broken ankle by herself. She is clever enough to know what she is good at, she’d rather help a person than rebuild a machine, and would always rather be with her friends, sharing knowledge to solve a problem.
Therefore, Maisie’s conflict situation would separate her from her friends, make her rely on only herself to help someone and possibly mean she has to make something rather than use her knowledge to solve the problem. Voila, instant plot developed through character!
Turning to my own novel, which is complete but could alway use another edit, my main character is a twenty year old called Saffron. She has a comfortable, safe life (boarding school education, rich parents, nice friends, enjoying studying) and she doesn’t challenge herself much. When this is undermined (she finds out who her real father is), her sense of self is shaken too. She discovers that she runs towards danger – she has to know who he was and what he did even though knowing will upset her and others. Her quest is for knowledge, and she seeks it alone, closing herself off from friends. However, to do so she has to rely on others to tell her, and they are not always willing to share, in order to gain an advantage, or to protect her or themselves. She also needs help to get a crucial piece of evidence that will help her help someone she immediately cares for. Learning to trust and feel a positive connection with others again will help her develop on her journey.
A few years ago, I wrote a character who I felt I knew well, and I decided to put him through a Myers-Briggs test to see if I knew how he would react in different situations. I did, and he felt like a real person. I guess the above is a simplified version of that.