Use people you know to make characters.
One of my favorite characters in The Eastern Slave Series is a man named Ocher. He’s a leading henchman for the bad guy, up until Ajalia wins him over to her side by promising to sort out his personal life for him.
Ocher is a pretty cool dude. Here’s how I made him:
- I took the physical body from one of my brothers (a military guy),
- and added the childish hunger for greatness from one of my leading actors (an entrepreneur).
- Then I took about three-quarters of my own brain,
- and reverse-engineered a basic template of gendered repression, wherein Ocher thinks his only acceptable purpose in life is to faithfully serve the generalized idea of womanhood.
This gave me a large man with piercing blue eyes and a full beard, a hard mouth, and the ability to turn dangerous swiftly when he feels his dignity has been crossed.
Here’s how you can make your own compelling concoction of characterization from an assemblage of your acquaintances, without any one of them ever suspecting a thing:
- Choose a body from a person you know, preferably someone you have spent a great deal of time around. The best part of doing this is that you don’t actually have to describe the character much in the writing; the fact of you knowing this particular body well will lead to a feeling of sureness, and of direct characterization. The reader will sense the depth of knowledge that you, the author, have of the body, and any light touches of characterization will go very deep in the reader’s mind.
- From a different person you know well, take one passionate character trait. This can be a hunger for attention, a love of a sport, a passion for gossip, or any other notable, clearly isolatable element of their personality.
- Now choose a person with whom you have discussed many things. You can use a portion of yourself, but the necessity is for a wide range of mental patterns and conversational transitions to be ready at your hand. Basically, you’re choosing a brain. This works best when you take a part of a mind; only rarely does an entire brain, borrowed whole from a living person, serve a characterization well.
- Last, lay over this mixture of persons you have selected some basic, gendered drive. This can be a woman rejecting herself out of daddy issues, or a man quashing his true self in the name of social expectations. The options in terms of a gender template are endless, and limited only by your imagination.
Once you’ve created your new character, all you have to choose is a name and set of starting circumstances.
You can read about Ocher in this book. He’s quite a character.
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