The act of character creation is different for every artist/author by definition. I abhore authors or editors (hell, anyone) that try to dictate the way in which someone is creative. Instead, I believe that everyone has to develop their own creative process. Often times those methods are a patchwork of activities and actions similar (or even identical) to what another author’s and probably more often, they are a developed through an author’s own experiences and efforts. Everyone does things differently, and my method for thumb nailing characters is probably far different from most others.
Like a lot of my other processes/methods, I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to these. Each character has to have a basic thumbnail, but it is not, generally a highly-detailed sketch to begin with. To be honest, I am not sure if that has been a problem or a help. One thing is for sure – it has freed me up to be creative as I write, but it has also (in some few cases) created some inconsistencies that I have had to deal with on edit, or re-write, or during my actual writing.
Beginning with the end in mind.
Like everything I do, I start with where I want the character to end up. I then work backwards to create a character that will be interesting (I hope ) to watch evolve to that point.
I generally am a minimalist when it comes to character sketching and creation. This allows me to let the character grow organically out of the story. This means I let the story do much of the development for me. How she reacts to events is often a fabrication of the moment itself, with some guidance provided by the overview sketch that I create at the beginning of the story.
The Sketch that I use really does not have a lot of meat on the bones. Everything is based on a general concept. For instance, I may create a character—let’s call her “A”. A must evolve to an endstate where she recognizes that she that she has powers that allow her to destroy demons, and she has a moral obligation to utilize that power to protect humanity.
I will then reverse engineer to create an interesting character that will have to overcome inner conflict to achieve this realization. Maybe she is physically weak, and is kind of a wall flower who wants nothing more than to be a bookworm, not an ass-kicking demon hunter.
The whole character then, name, manerisms, personality and such are built around this development arch. But, it is done in a very minimalist way. I may have a short bullet point list of (a) name, (b) personaility, (c) appearance, and most importantly (d) overall motivations—ie…what makes her tick, what makes her want to be a wall flower, and what deep-seated insecurities make her not want to be a kick ass demon hunter.
The overall motivations piece of the sketch tends to be the most important and always ties into the Story Question. This motivation will also evolve as the character evolves, But, always, her base tendencies will remain—just like our childhoods stay with us for our entire lives.
I do not generally do a detail plot of charater development and evolution. It almost always follows (mirrors) the mythic structure, not matter how I initially design it. For those of you who don’t know, mythic characters develop right along with the heroic journey. A graphic representation of it (provided by Chris Volger) as follows:
This structure, takes the character in a natural progression from unevolved to evolved, from a limited understanding of the need to change, and the conflicting inner-self that prevents it , to mastery over the inner-self, and the changes that are necessary to achieve that self-awareness.
Anyhoo….that is my process. I hope you found this interesting…and marginally useful.