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Free Reads > Fleshing out a Major Character for my Book

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message 1: by Marc (new)

Marc | 4 comments Would appriciate any comments or tips on this little excercise I did to flesh out a backstory and personallity of a major character (not the main character) in a book I am currently writing.


message 2: by Phyllis (new)

Phyllis Twombly (ScifiAliens) | 47 comments I try to avoid writing 'background stories' since they have a way of working themselves into the manuscript. It's part of the reason my Martian Symbiont titles turned into a series instead of just a book and sequel. Not necessarily a bad turn of events, except for one side story that was completely edited out. In my mind it still existed, which was something I had to reconcile when working on a subsequent novel.

Like your characters, these were 'support' personalities. The amount of ink you give them may be partly determined by how relevant they really are and how long your book is, ie, a novella, part of a series, or a six hundred page epic. Without deeper context, your characters came across as the main characters. Certainly that's how most of us view ourselves in life so it's not necessarily problematic.

One thing you can do in 'real time' is to study personality profiles. Even here caution is called for since I found most of the ones I've been subjected to were just plain wrong. Try to avoid ones with multiple choice questions where your gut instinct answer isn't even listed. Personalities tend to be complex and simplistic 'tests' can only pin down generalities. If you're really into this you can always have your characters 'take' a personality test.

message 3: by Marc (new)

Marc | 4 comments Thank you for the reply,

I plan to write a trilogy, the characters identified in this brief background summary are all relatively crucial to the plot. I wanted to throw it under a different characters perspective for a bit and see where it lead me.

I do like the idea of taking a personality test for my characters, and will probably give that try.

Thanks again

message 4: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell Drake (maxwell_alexander_drake) | 80 comments Sorry, for some reason, the entire post did not post, so here it is again…

I have to go opposite of Phyllis, I am the back-story fiend. I create a back-story for every single person who makes an appearance in my novels – even one who has only 1 line of dialog. A bartender who passes out a drink – I know where they were born, who their family is, why they became a bartender, what they like/dislike, what their phobia’s are. Everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t show up in the story (unless it should.) I use it for my own so that I can really understand what motivates them as a person.

It is one of the things I feel cause my fans to comment on the depth and realism of my work. Every character is flesh and blood. To me, it makes for great interaction in my dialog sequences. I know how the barman will react to the main characters comments.

Plus, that information is something I use to continue to add to my world/culture/etc. And I can't tell you how many story ideas I have dredged up from the dark recesses of my mind while creating the back-story for a one-line-of-dialog-character.

But hey, I may just be crazy.


message 5: by Phyllis (new)

Phyllis Twombly (ScifiAliens) | 47 comments Maxwell wrote: "Sorry, for some reason, the entire post did not post, so here it is again…

I have to go opposite of Phyllis, I am the back-story fiend. I create a back-story for every single person who makes an..."

Hey, if it works for you it's the furthest thing from crazy. Personally I like to journey with my characters as they grow through the story line. One of my top three characters had a secret from day one that I 'discovered' in the third novel. I always knew Dr. Coren was hiding something. People rarely hide a single secret so there are more surprises coming in the next novel.

There are so many ways to grow your characters it can be a challenge to pick the best one. Find what works and run with it.

message 6: by Rita (new)

Rita Webb (ritawebb) Now this is a great conversation! Thanks for asking the question, Marc.

I think I'm somewhere in the middle between Phyllis and Maxwell. I generally only have a page of two of notes that include names, ages, personality alignment, and relationships. Everything else goes into my first draft. Because my first draft IS my notes.

I like RPG games (the kind with paper and dice, not the kind on a computer). So I think in terms of personality using RPG terms: the fighter, the minstrel/artist, the wizard/spiritualist/prophet, the rogue/prankster/thief, the judge/concrete-thinker/voice of reason.

In my story Scrolls, I have 5 characters, each one falls into one of these categories. (Except my voice-of-reason character went off and did his own thing and I had no control over him.)

Anyway, this gives my story balance and determines my characters' motivations and thought patterns. And it adds tension between the characters, making them not all think the same way. Then I build from there.

message 7: by Marc (new)

Marc | 4 comments When I originally made this topic I had maybe a chapter written of my book, now I'm sitting at about 60% of the way through the first draft.

What I linked was actually just a snap shot of what I wrote to flesh out a major character and his 'family', which worked out quite well. By the time I was finished each character had likes, dislikes, love interests, even so much as favorite foods. All of which you can see in some fashion in my book.

Over all I think it worked out quite well.

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