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  • Dasia Zanders

Creating Characters

People often ask me what my process is for creating characters. I used to give a short simple answer because I didn't know if the longer version would come off as boring or confusing so I've decided to post about how I choose to create characters and different backgrounds for them. The first character I ever created was Rosalia from my Cassadine series. Through writing out ideas for her I learned that the first character that you ever create is going to have a lot of similarities as you. I gave Rosalia qualities I was aware I had, qualities I wished I would never acquire, and I gave her some traits that I wished I would grow up to have. Through this I learned a really important lesson that led to me making a reminder for myself about creating characters.

Reminder: Never put too much of yourself into a character to the point where you self-criticize, self-analyze, and form self-hatred.

This reminder has been critical for me and I think it's important to remind other writers, especially young writers, that it's okay to put yourself into your characters but you should set some personal boundaries for yourself. You're always going to find a little bit of yourself in anything you write because that's part of who you are and if you're truly passionate about what you're writing and why you're writing it then you're going to invest some of yourself into that. That's one of the beautiful parts of being some form of an artist, you learn a lot about yourself through your work and that's amazing! I support that completely because I know that writing has helped shape who I am. However, if you start making your story or your character(s) your whole being then you're either losing who you are or start putting up a block to all the potential of who you can be. It's significant for your mental and emotional health to learn how to share your experiences, thoughts, and emotions in your writing while also being able to separate yourself so you still feel like you have some privacy and some room to grow.

After I realized what my personal limits and boundaries were about how much I wanted to share about myself through characters and story lines my process for creating characters became easier. I began to think more about how those characters suit the story and less about if I was somehow over sharing or not sharing enough with readers. Sometimes I build characters based off a story idea or sometimes I build a story off of a character depending on the situation. When I begin a new story I think about my goal with that story. What is it about at it's core? How do I want to present that message? What types of characters can help create and support that idea? Once I've thought through those questions to myself I start writing down personalities that I think would suit that particular story and I pull a lot of inspiration from the people I surround myself with. I think about my close friends, people I went to school with, and my family. I look at who they are as people and what qualities I love about them or what situations in their lives I wish were easier and I use some of that to start drafting the basic ideas and traits for the characters.

Example: I want character A to be sweet, funny, smart, loyal, ect.

Once the basic traits are laid out for characters I go back to give them physical characteristic so I can visualize what this person looks like. It makes it easier for me just because I have a face in mind to associate with but there are times where I don't even write down the physical characteristics until the very end of character planning. Then I get to the more detailed part of building characters, I start adding details that make the character more like an actual person you could meet in real life. I don't like my characters being perfect because that's not realistic and I don't want any of my readers to ever think that I support the idea of being perfect when it's intangible which is why I give them quirks or issues that are realistic. I should mention that if you have a friend or family member who has had a particular experience you want to write about then I suggest politely asking their permission to write that experience and even letting them read that particular moment so they know what's been said and to ensure that they're comfortable with it.

Example 2: Character A is sweet but has a temper when pushed too far, they're funny, smart but don't realize it, loyal, has friends but may still feel lonely, they have a nervous habit of tapping their foot, maybe they have anxiety, they aren't too loud mostly because they already find themselves annoying and don't want to give people more reason to feel agitated with them.

I start putting deeper emotions and thoughts into them as well as figuring out which other characters I want them to interact with and what they're relationships are. I decide early on who is already friends, who will later become friends, who are meant to be enemies, and who may have a love story and whether or not that love story ends in happiness or heartbreak. Then I can go back and figure out how I want that to intertwine with my story, if there's anything that I don't like anymore or I think won't help the story or character I can go through and cross things out, add things in and go on to start actually writing the first few chapters or pages of the book. As people we can only do our best with the life we have, but we can learn so much from the other people we share this lifetime with. Inspiration can come from many different places, but it's challenging to make realistic characters for readers to be inspired by and feel connected to without engaging with real people daily. For me I learned if you want to improve on character development start with really paying attention to the real characters in your life story.

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