I’m curious. Where do y’all get your character inspiration from? Do you get inspiration for characters from being with people who inspire you? From Pinterest or other sites? By reading other books? Do you base any characters in your book off of people in your life? Or do you have a vivid imagination and just think them up?
I would love to hear your input!
Mostly from those who make my blood curl. (Jkjk, I don’t hate anyone).
I only get my characters rough looks from there because my brain can’t develop images in my head:
Yeah, lol. I gotta avoid basically falling into the same exact thing though but my writing is a mix of others.
Loads of them.
I use irl people with a twist.
I tend to think them up. I do have a few based on characters I’ve liked from other places. But usually they are mine.
I have had a bit of luck starting with a trait or skill that is a strength (or weakness!) and then putting that into a situation where it is stressed. Putting names and personalities around those is still a work in progress. I agree with the others that real life is a good inspiration.
If I am sitting in a coffee shop or somewhere out in public, I try to put my phone down and look at other people. Find someone interesting and imagine a personality, why they are there, what kind of day they are having. This isn’t a guessing game about what they are really like, but rather a creative exercise. These don’t show up in my stories, but does give me practice at creating characters.
That’s actually really interesting, because I do that to people as well, and I thought for sure I was the only one! I’ll try to imagine out what the lives of the people around me are like, and what it would be like to be in their shoes.
Are there any websites to help with in-depth character creation, or even a full-blown stats page?
One stop for Writers is great for in depth character development and many other things. Highly recommended. Website is onestopforwriters.com and there’s a free trial.
I write mostly shorts and feel that each of my MC’s is a hightened part of me (who fights aliens cause nobody else does or accidentally makes dinner for a werewolf not noticing that I’m their dinner, somebody who can’t make friends easily or is sadened by not being able to help friends fight their demons etc.). Supporting characters are usually inspired by people (and animals) I have met as well as I tend to make use of places I have been to.
K.M. Weiland has a lot of great resources. Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi have a set of “thesauruses” for things like emotions, positive traits, negative traits, settings, etc.
I try to steal the souls of real people, but only ones that match the type of person I am looking for. In a story I am looking for characters with different personalities so I get clear what type of personality it is that the character has, then I think of who I know that matches that. From there, that character is based on the real person I have met. I pick personality types that I think will lead to conflict dealing with situations in the story.
So for example, I decide in a short story set at an outdoor music festival in the Pacific Northwest. The executive director needs to control everything and she wants to see tangible results. She values action and she hates smokers, slackers, and jazz music. The production manager immediately understands where a person is coming from, what motivates that person to wake up and what will light them up. He doesn’t technically need to work given his inheritance but he does because he is ashamed of how his father amassed his wealth. The arts, and especially music, is where he has chosen to spend his life.
I then think of people who remind me of these characters and I put those real people in situations. ZZ Top sold out concert in the middle of smoke from local forest fires and COVID raging in the local community. How would each of these characters, and their real human proxies, this concert and all of its challenges?
For me, when I have the personality I want clear in my mind I can think of one or more people I have known who match that and then I drop them in the scene and see what they do. If its not that interesting I thank them and pick someone else.
I do this because I think that if I don’t have another human in mind my default is to ask the character to do what I would do, which is what @Chris was maybe getting at for the main characters. I think we all know enough humans to fill our stories if we are clear what type of person we are interviewing for with the part. That, clarity of what drives each character, is the author’s responsibility.
sits up straight
My characters are an utter mess. My main character it seems is always me. And the secondary characters tend to be people I’m a bit distanced to. The antagonist are usually people I extremely dislike or the faults in my closest friends.
The antagonist thinks they are the protagonist. We all see they world as protagonists, thinking this is our story. Try taking an antagonist character and writing a chapter from their perspective. For example, what was the Queen doing right before she happened by the room and how does she feel about this whole spying thing? She probably isn’t spying just for the sake of spying, she must be worried or anxious or distrustful of someone, which means she sees them as a potential threat. Why?
This little trick has helped me bring some depth to my antagonists or secondary characters so they don’t feel so flat. Maybe its worth a try?
I know it’s better to do so. For instance, in another book my character is literally destroying the world because she’s looking for her discuter and she blamed certain people for the separation. She’s doing the right thing in the wrong way.
I want to portray the Queen as an evil that people would really hate. I’m not sure if people would do that if I show her better side.
I usually get inspiration from people who inspire me or base my characters on people I know personally. Sometimes, I imagine myself as my character so that I can write out emotions and dialogue. I also find muses via Pinterest, Google, and social media to help find character traits.
@Christopher_Shockey Do you have any books published? You sound like the kind of author I would love reading!
I have four books published by Storey Publishing, which is part of Hachette Book Group now. They are all non-fiction cookbooks of a sort, all around different types of fermentation. Fermenting vegetables, hot sauces, Asian ferments like miso or tempeh, and hard cider. I’m currently working on a second edition of the first book, which was published in 2014. So if you like to eat maybe you would like some of my books.
I’m a Dabble user to move beyond ferments to fiction. In a cookbook, you can tell short stories at the beginning of chapters and in the recipe headnotes, but not a lot of room in there and the other limitation is people seem to expect the information in cookbooks to be true, which limits one’s creativity.
What about you?
I presume you have already thought about a cookbook for a fictional world/alternate history with different ingredients and techniques. And stories! Then you wouldn’t have those pesky expectations for truth.
Oh that could be fun. Some people actually think my current cookbooks, harnessing microbes to make food you eat, is science fiction so I should already be most of the way there. Thanks for the idea John.
Actually that’s really interesting as my family is very much into fermented foods.
I felt like I would enjoy a novel written by you because the way you write really intrigues me!
I write fantasy overall. I’ve experimented with other genres, (historical fiction, mystery, etc) but found that none worked with my imagination as well as fantasy. I wish you luck in your move to fiction!
I tend to get character inspiration from movies and cartoons bc most of those characters I make are based on those character with a twist of my own creativity.
Also looking at pictures of people works for me too. Mostly movies like Dreamworks, Disney, and other animated and family movies I tend to use. Shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Trolls: The Beat Goes On (this is the most I go to) is where I get my character inspirations from too.
I also tend to imagine them and some of my characters I make come from my imaginary friends I have. I tend to act them out all the time and they come alive like that too.