Every writer I've spoken to creates characters differently. This post is simply what almost always seems to happen to me personally. Hopefully, it will be entertaining, but I don't expect it to help you picture your characters. If it does, awesome! If not, I hope you still enjoy! :)
The first spark of a character idea typically comes from other characters. There I admitted it! My characters are originally based off of other characters! But by the time I finish everything, they are usually VERY different. If they are not drastically different from the character that inspired them, I scrap them. End of story. I'm not going to steal another writer's character. Good writing or acting just tends to inspire me, that's all.
|Doc as portrayed by Val Kilmer|
I started to think about her. I researched the real Doc Holliday and read about him. I already knew that the character's backstory was very different from Doc's, but it had similarities too. They were both rich by inheritance. Both are dying from a disease. Both are the equivalent of Southern genteel gone vagabond. Both are gamblers. But they had differences too. Doc was described by his friend Wyatt Earp as being "the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew". I knew almost immediately that she would be fairly worthless in a fight. Her world has guns, but I didn't see her being exceptionally good at them. I think she would rely more on blackmail and magic in a fight-even if it means betraying her friends. Doc would have never betrayed his friends. She is in her early twenties, Doc was in his thirties. She is antagonistic towards people she should probably respect, Doc is lackadaisical unless someone threatens his friends.
I continued to think about her backstory and personality until she was very different from Doc. Once I was sure that I could keep her because she was different enough, I decided to name her. (It's kinda like in Monster's Inc. "Once you name it, you start getting attached to it!" It hurts to scrap characters I've already named.)
I knew her name had an "El" in it somewhere. It just fit. Elise? Too girly. Elle? Too simple. Eleanor? Too sophisticated. I also knew that I wanted her name to be hyphenated because many Southern women and girls have hyphenated first names. Her fantasy country is based on the South, so I felt like she should have a classic name, but with a twist. And an "El" in it. I also knew she needed a middle name, because again, trying to stick with Southern naming techniques. And I wanted her to have a funky last name because she was turning out to be a rather quirky character.
That's a lot of stipulations, but barriers always help me narrow down my choices. After about half an hour on babynames.com, I finally had her complete name. I'll spare you all the tedious details of narrowing it down, and searching name meanings. In the end, her name was...
(last name pronounced TAM-EE-SIS)
I know, it's a mouthful. But I like it. It fits her very nicely. It also leaves room for the other characters to shorten it and call her different things, thus showing their personality as well. One character might call her "Ms. Tamesis" while another might just call her "Dacey". Obviously I won't do too many variations because I don't want it to get confusing, but it will work if I keep it limited.
Now I needed to know what she looked like. It's funny, after thinking about characters for so long, I tend to have an image in my head that I can't describe. It's like a foggy photograph that a camera sees clearly, but the photographer can't decipher. That's the best way I can describe it. And I've found, sitting down and typing out physical attributes I think I see in the photograph, just doesn't work. It leads to confusion and...wrongness. I need to get it right.
I'm not an artist, by any means, but my mom is and she has taught art classes for years. Everything from watercolor to acrylic to sketching to cartoons to manga. Manga is my favorite. It's easy to learn and I find it the most useful. Whenever I have a foggy character image in my head, I turn to manga. I grab a pen so I can't erase and I just let my hands draw without thinking about it.
I didn't have a pen when I sat down to do Dacey-Ellis (I was babysitting) but I did find a pencil missing an eraser which is the next best thing. After about fifteen minutes, this was the result.
Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it REALLY helped me. Her sloped in cheeks caused by the sickness that is killing her. Low-cut neckline (don't worry, she's NOT the hero lol). Heavy jewelry and makeup (lips always represent makeup to me for some reason. I don't know why). Ridiculous amount of necklaces, almost as if she's...flaunting? To who? Why? Hair piled on top of her head haphazardly with jewels randomly stuck in it. Fashionable, but she doesn't really care anymore. Because she's dying? Or something else? Or both?
As you can see, drawing the character helps me further the backstory and personality even more. Traits I didn't know she had suddenly appeared. Coy. Sneaky. Smart. But I wasn't done yet. I could end here, I suppose, but I like seeing a real person, not a sketch, as I write. Sometimes the character's face just pops in my head, even if I've never seen a picture of the face. Like Ember. I know exactly what she looks like, but I've never found a picture or seen anyone with her face. But that just wasn't happening with Dacey-Ellis. So I took to Pinterest and started scouring character boards to find someone who resembled my manga picture. Usually, it's people I've never seen before who are posing for photoshoots or something of that nature. Only occasionally is it someone recognizable. (Hail Frost looks like Richard Armitage)
Well, Dacey-Ellis was one of those "occasionally's" because she looks EXACTLY like Helena Bonham-Carter. Which is totally awesome because she's an amazing and quirky actress.
Well, I certainly hope this was entertaining. Characters are always fun to discover. I can't wait to write Story D and get to know Miss Dacey-Ellis Azalea Tamesis even better! :)