It seems like I'm always discovering a new character.  Like a lot of writers, they "talk" to me, tell me who they are, where they want to go.  Like today, I discovered that one of my characters, who I always saw as the stalwart, put together type and the most stable member of the cast, is actually thoroughly insane.  I think I've been coming to this conclusion slowly, but it hit me today with a degree of clarity that just clicked.  Angelina Rossi is insane.  It isn't that obvious from the book as she is the main narrator and she believes that she is perfectly sane and logical.  At first, I didn't know what to do.  I wanted the reader to know this.  I thought it was important.  But I didn't want to just out and out say, "She's insane, people!"  But, by the time I'd driven to the gas station to put air in my deflated tires, I had my answer and moved on.

But that long rant wasn't the point of this post.  My point was that the best way to create exceptional characters is to start from their flaws, their faults.  With me, it is frequently physical flaws, like a hearing impairment or learning disability.  Or maybe it is internalized, like an inferiority complex or anger management issues, although these tend to arise from deeper issues so it might behoove to dig further into the character to find where these originate.  These flaws influence every aspect of who the person is, into every part of his or her day to day live.  It makes them real in the same way that a book review that points out both the good and the bad in a book makes it feel real to us, honest.

It isn't always easy to make realistic characters.  There are lots of things we, as writers, can do to help this along.  One example is listing out traits about the character (you can find lists like this online by searching character development worksheet).  Another is picking out key events to be a part of a character's past.  Was he abused?  Teased as a child?  Did he develop a love for reading at a young age or was he more into video games?  Was he popular growing up?  Was his family close knit?  Much of this doesn't matter.  You can pick things off the top of your head.  But all of it influences how the character thinks and reacts to the situation at hand.

But I always start from the flaws.  I pick a flaw.  Decide when it happened (like if the character was born hearing impaired or did the impairment occur later in life).  I decide how that would have influenced her growing up.  Would she be sensitive about the way she speaks?  Would she tend to withdraw from people?  Would she be short tempered?  Would she play music loudly?  What types of music would she prefer?  Would she try to hide her impairment, if she could?  Ask yourself all the ways that your flaw would change the way they react or think and, quite quickly, you will have a very workable basis for a character, just missing the more concrete details like hair color and a name.



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