I love creating characters and getting to know them. My approach varies depending on the story but by far my most effective (and fun) method is to use celebrity photos. At least just to get the ball rolling.
I’ve lost count of the number of character profiles I’ve written. Hundreds, probably. But they all follow something of a pattern.
I first find a good photo of an actor or celebrity (largely because they are easiest to search for) and pin that up at the head of my document. I then pick a date of birth and look up some astrology for it. This is a neat way of creating a base profile. Lazy but effective.
Obviously the character’s profile has to compliment the story in some way but I do enjoy creating characters and their lives in this way.
Here’s an example from a story I’m considering about a teenage lad who discovers that an illness he had as a boy was actually linked to some form of dormant other-worldly possession!
So this guy is of course the young actor Asa Butterfield. But for the purposes of my story he’s called Jacob.
Here’s a little detail.
Jacob Mason, born 17th May 1997.
Star sign: Taurus
Jacob is a quiet, intelligent, creative young lad. He comes from a good home and attends Sycamore College where he has ambition to become a comic book artist. He looks the type, don’t you think?
As a child Jacob suffered a seizure while out shopping with his mother. He spent a little over a month in a coma despite the doctors advising they could see no obvious cause.
In recovery Jacob’s parents vowed to protect him; and they do. A little too much. Jacob feels their pressure but is far from rebellious. In fact, he can be quite withdrawn and reclusive with few close friends.
Jacob’s first love is art. Since he can remember he’s kept a sketchbook journal daily.
Jacob’s best friend, Alice, is a pretty 17 year old and the two are extremely close.
The young actress above is Sophie Nélisse who I thought was superb in The Book Thief. She has exactly the sort of natural girl-next-door looks that Alice has.
Jacob’s Taurus personality sees him as ambitious, reliable and independent but painfully stubborn with a short fuse.
Alice, the Sagittarius, shares Jacob’s ambition and works hard at her studies. But she is easily bored and is becoming increasingly frustrated by Jacob’s introvert nature.
So this is really enough to get me started on building their characters and establishing a strong plot.
Several questions crop up as I’m writing.
- Is Jacob in love with Alice?
- Is Alice in love with Jacob?
- Is Jacob the sort of kid that could be bullied?
- How would Jacob’s short fuse cope with seeing Alice with another guy?
- What kind of drawings does Jacob draw?
- Is Jacob a day dreamer in class?
- Does Jacob take regular medication following his seizure?
- What might happen if Jacob failed to take his medication?
- What might happen if Jacob got drunk whilst on medication?
- What does Jacob’s temper look like?
- Just how much do Jacob’s parents stifle their only child’s movement?
and of course
- What is the real cause for Jacob’s seizure all those years ago?
This is very much the stuff of teen angst and a decent foundation for the story that I have planned for Jacob. I want the story to be quite gritty and deal with love, lust, drink, violence, drugs and the supernatural.
Best get writing…