Every reader and every audience member needs to identify with the narrative that is served up to be consumed. Ask yourself this; how many times have you realized that you were watching something stupid on television but could not turn the channel. But because you identify, at least at some level with the characters on the screen, you are interested in knowing how things come out in the end. It is the characters that drive a narrative. Events give the character reason to do something, but it is the character that chooses to act or not to act on the situation. Therefore characters must be well made if the story is to be effective. Any character is made of several layers, layers which, as you watch, unfold or peal back to reveal something more complex then first assumed.

Character Creation


Much of what we are comes from our parents. Unless your universe is very different from modern contemporary beliefs (as it may well be!) then genetics are very important. At this first stage, think of the basic parts of your character. Are they big or small? Are they male or female? All of these decisions are very important. At this level many writers consider this stage automatic. A picture has formed instantly in our mind of the hero, the villain, the victim, or the killer. Do not rush your character. Linger on this stage, for it from this stage that all others come from. Is there something inside that genetic mix that makes you character very unique? Will this make them stand out from others? If not, is this a positive or negative thing? Hair, weight, eye colour, family size... All of these are things that will effect the future and conjure up plot for new narratives.

Things Learned:

After genetics, there is the family or tribe. Everything that is not instinct is picked up from your group after you are born and for the first five to ten years after birth. This is a very important time for your character. It is here that it becomes whole and begins to function inside society, whatever that may be. An important thing to keep in mind is that anything that is not genetic is learned, and many of the things that we take for granted every day are not quite understood. Gender is, at the time of the creation of this article, a hotly contested issue. Is gender learned or is it genetic? Things that fit into this category are racial tolerance, social and ethical values, and respect for people and things. For example, if you as a creator are making a character who displays and acts on psychopathic urges, consider why. Most likely this is because of something that happened when your character was very young. Or perhaps because of something that didn't happen (like discipline: too much or too little).

The Spiritual:

Next we move on to a Character's experience outside the realm of physical experience. Many will claim that religion and the matters of spirit are a learned quality. This is true, but one can be sure that there are many who have changed and/or discovered their spiritual calling long after they were removed from the environment of the above level. Also, the spiritual can be constantly changing. While ones youth fades and is left on the side of the road, the spiritual may change. It is this level that values, other than those taught by tribe or family, come into being. For example, think of a reborn Christian living with a family of atheists. Thing of the conflict that would be created. How could a child not worry about the afterlife of his/her parents? How could the parents not worry about the actions and judgements of the offspring?

Society and The Masses:

Outside of the spiritual, there is society. Society is everywhere and almost impossible it ignore, even if one chooses to remove one's self from its presence. There is always the worry about society taking control and leading us away from what we as individuals wish to do. Our only protection is our facelessness. To be anonymous is to be safe and invisible. So does your character agree with the wishes of the masses? Are they willing to risk being noticed by society or those it empowers? This will say much for you character, for it is at this level that we find out how well they will stand the test of time. Time to figure out how well they will value the above three stages and at what cost they are willing to keep them safe and protected.


The final thing that will effect what your character does and how it reacts to outside stimulus is everything that it has ever done, chosen freely or otherwise. The old saying "Once bitting Twice Shy" comes into play at this stage. Is there something that your character did in the past that they regret? Or was there something that made the character happy, and therefor they have decided that this is the way decisions will be made in the future. We all make decidions we regret, and conflict comes from those decision coming back to haunt us. Leaving someone behind, hurting someone or something, or opening a proverbial "Pandora's box". All examples of past decisions that could come back to cause conflict. It is these experiences that will shape how your character moves, acts, and then goes on to experience new things and make new decisions.

Character Development:

One of the things that really help a audience join with the characters they are watching is the if said characters change over time. This is one of the most complicated parts of any narrative is making sure that all of the most important characters are well developed and made whole by their actions. This is of course a very taxing process, but if you love your characters and know them well, it will come very easily over time. Of course, one cannot do this for every character, so only the most crucial and central characters are made in such depth. Think of all the people you meet every day. Chances are all of them have led complicated lives and are unique in some small way. After all, we are all individual. But mostly we only know the surface of the mass of people we are exposed to all the time. Think of it... How wee do you know any one. To your character and you audience or reader, this is the way he will see most subjects that you

© 2000 Copyright Rivalquest New Media