Writers and creators, how detailed do you get when creating your fictional characters?

And I don’t mean MCs in a character creation section of a game–I mean your literal fiction characters! Your NPCs in ChoiceScript games (or novels, or short stories, whatever)! Do you know their birthdays, favorite foods, favorite colors? Do you focus more on their quirks, habits, mannerisms, psychological states? Or do they just “flow” through you as you write the story, and you don’t think much about details that don’t factor into the story, such as childhood pets?

What’s your process for “making” characters?

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Ok, I haven’t made a CS game or anything, but I do write non-professionally.

For the current cast of characters I have in two different stories, I know their birthdays, favorite colors, I figure out their mannerisms when talking (do they touch their hair, tap their fingers, bite their lips), I write down their ‘tells’ for when they’re lying.
I know their fears, wants, kinks, favorite books, music, movies, everything that you would get to know when you befriend them and then some.

I go more in-depth with the main characters and villain, than side characters of course, but everyone that appears in more than six chapters tends to be pretty well thought out.

I plan all this out long before I put pen to paper, because I’m a planner, not a doer.

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Humm…

that’s a hard question for me personally , because of the medium I use to make my story . But in a way , I guess in the words they are still mine .

Anyway , I guess everyone is different . But in my case , I use music to inspire me .

So…I get the emotions first that I need , then I paint the face . (not really paint it lol but in my head it’s like filling the colors in ) , then come the rest of the body…and the personallity will come and go . As in , I will write them…then think …no…that is too much , or tacky…or whatever , or it would be better for that other character .

The process is different I think…depand on the medium you use . Like say a movie is telling a story…but they don’t have to describe building and the peoples . BUt the actors have to play the emotions and not just the word or the actions .

Usually peoples like to get the ‘This X and that is Y and they live in W’ over with so they can get to the actions (I know tha feeeling ) .

In the medium I used , I didn’t have to do much describing , so that was fun and limiting alot . I still had to play around what I was showing though .

I don’t go deep in description personally , because if it isn’t important (like X character like Sushi)…unless somewhere in the story it has a use (Like X is allergic to peanut butter and later someone will poison them or something) then yeah . I like when writers put hints here and there , cose not everyone will catch them . And it’s also amazing to (if you can follow them) see…like a tapestery of their…how to say…get a glimpse to what they were Painting (wich writing is like painting…at least to me :P) .

Anyway , I’m just rambling at this point…so hope that wasn’t confusing too much :sweat_smile:

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I know very little until it appears on the page, or in an idea that will make it on the page eventually. It’s rather useless to ask me for non-relevant information about characters, if it won’t come into play, I have no idea and will most likely not be bothered coming up with the facts.

Knowing everything about a character makes them boring to write, I like being surprised.

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I like knowing my characters like I would know a friend. That knowledge may grow or change as time goes on though. I might pull a trait out or add a new one. I do like doing character sheets sometimes because I tend to forget cool little details about a character if I don’t write them down.

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The thing that I try hard not to do is create characters in a vacuum. In the past I’ve lovingly made quite detailed characters without thinking about what they wanted or how they drive the story forward, but even though they were characters I wanted to spend time with, there wasn’t momentum.

Nowadays for games, I tend to start out with a broad-strokes archetype with some sort of quirk, figure out what they want (and how that causes trouble for the PC) and how they interact with or cause the plot. The simpler the better to start with - I can fill in details as I go. Recently I made up a bunch of characters that I summarised like a “tag yourself” meme - I found that very useful to stop myself getting bogged down at an early stage. I do that when I run tabletop role-playing games, too.

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This is a public bio from my game. (public as I mean in universe it only has what is on record for the military she works for) It doesnt have any of the in universe details which there are quite a few.
I like creating characters who are “heroes of their own stories” so I fill in everything about them, the adventures they’ve had the friends and enemies they’ve made, or the ones they have lost. So I go a little crazy with it even if some details dont make it into the story. I like to know my characters like I know a friend. :slight_smile:

Name: Elia “Rose” Anderson

Rank: Admiral
Current Age: 49
Born: Imperial Year 167
Early Biography: Born on planet C-15 “New Serbia” to two retired captains of the early incarnations of the UEG fleet. Schooled in the art of space warfare and tactics at the best military schools in the UEG she quickly rose through the rank gaining command of her own ship at the age of 28, the light Jay cruiser “Empreza” in Imperial year 195 and soon afterwards got her first taste of full ship to ship combat.

Medals:
The Saphire star (2) “First battle of Novia Scotia” “Battle of Lancaster”
Hero of Earth (1) “For actions during the Revolt that ensured the safety of our beloved Emperor”

Notable actions:
Imperial year 196 at the “First battle of Nova Scotia” she destroyed two Hail class ACC destroyers using the wreck of a fellow ship to cover her ships damaged sides as she traded fire with the two quick destroyers which were overwhelmed by cannon fire from the Cruiser.
Imperial year 199 at the “Battle of Lancaster” she rammed her ship into the Super Dreadnaught “Oceiana’s” engines crippling it and allowing the UEG fleet to capture it, 95% of her crew were killed and the Empreza was scuttled hours later.

Imperial year 205 recently promoted Rear Admiral Anderson in the newly comissioned Ceasar class Heavy Battleship “Empreza” named after her old ship. Along with four other vessels comprising the rear guard of UEG fleet Three, engaged two fleets at once allowing the Third and First fleets to capture the ACC comerce world of “Jaswolla” only losing one ship the remaining ships were able to withdraw damaging two enemy vessels enough that they had to be scuttled.

Imperial year 210 Vice Admiral Anderson assisted Operatives 001 002 and 0048 with recapturing the hijacked UEG station from Redacted during the Revolt. In the aftermath all station inhabitants were killed and all attackers were executed with permission from UEG high command. She was promoted to Admiral for these actions.

She presently still commands her flagship.

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My process of creating characters is different with collaborative works from, well, non-collaborative works.

For said collaborative works, the characters usually start with a name or a vague idea about them, or something graphical like a sketch. Then, we decide on the personality. Usually, this means listing a bunch of personality traits and another bunch of secret personality traits. The rest of the character (quirks, mannerisms, tragic backstory, etc.) comes later, usually in brainstorms or during the actual writing. We usually try to connect backstory elements with personality traits, trying to find out how this trait happened. Sometimes, we also write down how this character will respond in this specific situation or how they act around this specific person.

We usually don’t know details like favorites, birthdays, etc. They don’t come up a lot in-story, so they are only added when they do come up.

When I’m creating characters on my own, the characters tend to spring to life, not fully formed, but with a working moldable template that then accrues bits and pieces of personality over time. These characters tend to have more traits than the ones made collaboratively, but a lot of them are superfluous. Put in a general way, they feel more like real people, but at the cost of being completely sidetracked by a character trait or an element of backstory. I don’t plan my own characters as much.

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So, I actually tend to build rather in depth full page bios. Here’s actually my last abandoned project (since obviously I’m not going to release my notes on my current project).

The most important things to note are things that I will tend to forget, and are likely to contradict (physical appearance, major history, speech patterns/mannerisms).

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So interesting to see how differently everyone does it! It’s a cool look into how people get started with shaping beings out of non-existence, haha. Hopefully it helps other aspiring writers and game-makers out there, too!

Wall of Words

As for me, I started one way and have changed into another. For one series that I started when I was young–I’ll refer to it as the Haven series–I started with archetypes and personality types and created them according to how they would fit into the main cast/plot of the story. Then I would write them in different scenarios with each other (usually random) and get a feel for how they would interact with each other, how they would think and talk, how they would react to a random, everyday situation. This allowed their personalities and dynamics to take further shape. (It turns out two different characters getting lunch can have those scenes play out very differently.) And doing that would bring up further questions: if this character is super funny and playful, and this character is cold and callous, how would that play out in the context of the book? How would it drive the narrative? And why were each of them that way, anyway? What happened to cause them to be flippant, or cruel, or untrusting?

Then I would work backwards and chart out their individual stories from birth, up until the point where the book started. Knowing everything that happened to them in that detail allowed me to further understand why they were the way they were, and how they would naturally react to the events of the main plot.

This was also the point where I was obsessively charting out everything there was to know about them. Things the readers would most likely never find out, or things that would never matter: birthdays, birthmarks, hated foods, childhood dreams, ideal vacations, relationships with family members that were long-dead by the time the actual story started. I filled in a lot of those character sheets in those days…

The result of all of that non-story-writing (esp. writing vignettes involving them and their lives before the events of the book) was that I came to know them so personally that they felt like real people and real voices to me. They became cemented as living beings with their own arcs and their own motives, even beyond what was happening to them in the series: it was more like documenting real people having things happen to them than controlling characters and what they would do for the purposes of the narrative. I even have dreams about them and they appear as very real, close friends that I know intimately! (As weird as that sounds!) And if I try to control what they do now, they sort of rebel: it doesn’t feel right to force a character to do a thing if “he/she wouldn’t do that, because it’s not like him/her.” So they just sort of direct the story now, in their reactions and courses of actions, and I can only follow. They flow through me almost without my input. I only control what the world throws at them, and what happens next is sort of up to them?

But that’s for that particular series, which I’m in the process of converting into a CS game. Nowadays I’ve moved on from the obsessive charting (no more character sheets!) and have focused more on wholly inhabiting a character’s psychological state of mind. In my current novel manuscript, the protagonist started out as “a misanthropic psychologist who was raised by androids.” That starting point has informed almost everything she says, thinks, or does, and that has of course evolved as the story’s unfolded. I couldn’t tell you what her favorite color is or what a good present for her would be, but I can tell you how she’d react in almost any situation! And for the purposes of the book, I think that’s enough.

(I don’t dream about her, though, so maybe that says something!)

@RETowers That character profile was super freaking cool, as the young ones would say. And I love that it’s on Neocities, lol! I hope you can take up the threads of that project again someday, it sounds fascinating!

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I begin with a core motivation, and let everything go from there. If I start from something else (like a theme or relationship), I will not be able to adequately pin down the character until I can clearly and concisely explain their underlying motivation. That way, whatever scenario I put the character in later on, I have a pretty solid start to decide how they ought to react. This is better than trying to come up with every possible scenario, and it tends to create more consistent characters. Characters in general will tend to be much more consistent than people.

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Very good question. I think that things such as birthdays and favourite colours aren’t things I really think about, since they don’t say a lot about the character. Quirks, habits and mannerisms are a lot more important, but also background and important events in their lives that shaped their personality. Also, hopes, fears, hobbies and ambitions are important things to consider aswell. :blush:

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Usually, I try to have most of the nitty-gritty of a character fleshed out, but I decided to change it up for a novel I’m currently writing.

Because the theme was about introspection and confronting yourself, I decided to start with a short phrase that summarized each character – “insecure but kind-hearted accountant with a stutter” for example – and after I wrote a chapter, I would brainstorm a few bits of their character and see what I could make relevant in the next chapter. It’s a bit of a weird way to do things and I worry my characters won’t seem consistent because of it, but I enjoy this method so much I might use it more.

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Please enjoy this totally absurdly detailed and annotated blank character profile which someone made at some point and I have been using for A While. I… wouldn’t encourage anyone to fill out the entire sheet, unless you are as Extra™ as I tend to be about that kind of thing, but personally I like to keep a couple of them open for various related characters and cross-fill them as I go. Most of the time, by the end of the profile, I know the characters well enough that I never have to refer to it again, and frequently I’ll run up against a section and pause.

“Hang on,” I will say to myself, staring at the cursor blinking patiently under the heading Handicaps. “Do I have any characters who have a physical disability? Not counting all their rampant character flaws and deep need for therapy? No? Well, this one does now. Time to do stupid amounts of research and figure out what impact this will have on his role and actions in the story.”

And then that’s the rest of my day gone.

Edit: I once played on a series of role-playing forums all operated by the same small group of players/hosts, and although the character profiles were all slightly different due to the specifics of settings, there was one field that tended to re-appear: How does your character react to sudden hugs? Frequently answering that question first, on top of a general short-form premise (frex, “wolf reincarnates as fox, becomes kitsune”) was enough of a jumping-off point for me to get a grip on a character.

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LICENSE PLATE NUMBER AND SSN??
:scream: :scream: :scream:

I love that character sheet! Especially the annotations—the mad genius who compiled all of this has a lot of wonderful points! Thanks so much for sharing, I hope to use this sometime in the future!

I usually start by categorizing them into archetypes than setting different habits as well as motivations to expand as well as sometimes conteadict said archetype to make them feel more complex and real rather than assigned to one role and when i try to create/write them2 i try to make them the hero of their own story whether they be the villain or protagonist

I usually go with the flow. In my opinion, characters are born through their words and actions, and unless a specific fact about them is relevant to the current storytelling moment, or I have planned to use it later, I don’t really think about it.

Also, for me as a player/reader a lot of info at once can be somewhat overwhelming, and I prefer character building akin to my own style.

First an off topic comment… I poofed from the forum over a year ago for no reason at all and just came back today. Congrats on creating thread that actually kept me from lurking for weeks before posting again which is what usually happens when I disappear for long periods on the interwebs.

Now to the actual topic. Character creation. The thing I enjoy doing most. I have at least forty notebooks and sketchbooks dating back to at least 2002 (sixth grade) that are literally nothing but character designs and unused plots and that doesn’t even include all of the unfinished word documents I have floating around on all of my devices. I am so bad at finishing things.
The level of detail I put into a character before attempting to write a story is completely dependant on how and how much they “talk” in my head. Sometimes I know everything about them and sometimes they surprise me. And sometimes I know everything and they still surprise me. It’s always different.
For some charcters I have incredibly detailed two page lists that can tell you everything from exactly what they look like to what their top 20 loves and hates are to all of their main life plot points that lead them to this point in life that they entered my story, as well as multiple sketches of them, their clothes, their room, their families, and so on. Other charcters I might have just a name and/or a one sentence description and/or a sketch and/or some random bit of dialogue.

Although my favorite character creation I’ve ever done was the idea to do an interview between the main character and all of the other ones. She’s a blogger so the idea was to get out their backstories and personalities and then use parts of them within the story since they would be plot relevant. The interviews ended up being so compelling they became the story. Lol.

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My characters always have the ‘trivial’ bits. Not that it’s necessary to write them by any means, I just couldn’t Not do it. And If i procrastinate, they gain MORE trivial. If i’m actually writing, whatever comes up, comes up. If i’m not writing, welp, time to make them a playlist and see what soda they like.

Mostly though, I’m just annoyed when western writers give very little details about the char. (But I understand that they’re not necessary, so no fault on them.) I’m just used to reading stuff that always telling you what blood group the character is askdjalksjdasd. So, I’ve got em all. Zodiac, Blood Group, you name it.

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It depends on the character.

But generally, it’s all about dialogue, voice and personality for me.

I start considering a character “detailed” enough once they actually start talking in my head. :crazy_face: And ideally, I want that for all my characters to some extent.

Long Answer

Since I have my main characters established now, most of the characters I create now are just side/supporting characters. I don’t really have a process for this–it’s either I think of a cool idea for a character (i.e. a “reformed” dark lord) that I’d want to include somewhere, or the plot demands it (I need a mentor character here, or I don’t have this type of character yet).

And then once I know their purpose, that’s when I start thinking up details, mostly their mindset and personality. This is where I struggle, since it takes me a really long time to develop characters that weren’t really there from the start. I’m better with dialogue than description, so that’s what I try to develop first. But if I think of a cool little detail, then I’ll list it down and try to show it somewhere. (I hate knowing something about a character that only I would know.)

Now, for my main/major characters? Uhh, they talk inside my head, a lot. It’s like roleplaying with myself. Sometimes my character feels lonely, and I feel lonely too. I see something they like, and they get excited in my head too. They don’t actually talk to me myself, but usually they talk with my other characters. They’ve been with me long enough for me to know how they’d talk in that situation, and naturally, lots of little details will pop up overtime. It’s both fun and annoying sometimes.

I really don’t get people who don’t bother with the little details. :stuck_out_tongue: They’re the most fun part of character development in my opinion, and it’s what separates them from other characters who have a similar personality type. I’m a visual person too so it’s even better if I have a clear image of them in my head, and I don’t really like adding quirks just for the sake of it.

Two of my characters’ birthdays have huge impact on their personalities actually–if I switched them up, their personalities would most likely switch too! I imagine that it’s not relevant for most characters though, but it feels really good when it becomes relevant somehow. Sometimes when I can’t decide, I’ll look up zodiac signs, birthstones, and stuff like that, but when it fits without me consciously matching them, that’s when I know that I nailed it! :hammer:

So that’s what I try to do with characters I’d like to develop, just let them talk with my other characters, or RP with other people, since for me dialogue is the best way to develop them. It forces you to think as the character, without the boringness of a character interview.

This all kinda started when I participated in one of the “Respond, Answer, Ask” threads in the NaNoWriMo forums, where sometimes we write scenes or let the characters answer the questions. That’s how I started developing my MC’s voices, which in my opinion is the most important thing after the basics.


Oh, and I almost forgot. Names! I suck at names, but I don’t really know a character until I decide on the name. I can’t start developing them without at least having a placeholder.

I’m way better when I first started writing though. I was just using my own and my friends’ names for every character without even bothering to change their personalities. Most of them were unnecessary too, just because I wanted to include them. :joy:

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