Character Creations: Laying the Foundation

I am having a blast creating characters for my NaNoWriMo project this year. I used some tools I haven’t applied in the past and I wanted to tell you about them.

But first, a caveat: this is just for the beginning of character development.

I believe in just laying a foundation for a character before I even write the rough draft. Many writers will spend hours and write pages about a character before they even begin writing the story. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t have time to do that, so I just get the basics for each character then develop them as I write the rough draft.

To me, this allows for the joy of discovering a character as I write with just enough guidance. 

For me, writing and writing about a character before I even begin writing is tedious. Humans are too complex no matter how much a writer tries to develop them before writing the story. So I used some tools to give me the general personality traits of each character. Here are the ones I used for this year’s NaNoWriMo:

  • Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein.
    Chapter two has descriptions of personalities and list of traits for dozens of personality types. Very useful. I knew the general personality of a character, searched for a more detailed description in chapter two, and tah-dah, I found two pages of positive and negative characteristics for each of them. For my protagonist, I chose Adventurer: doesn’t play by the rules; always on the go. A good choice for keeping the story flowing.
  • Enneagram Types
    I tried to match the personality type from Edelstein’s book with one of nine Enneagram Type Descriptions. I tried to have only one of each type in my story. My protagonist, for example, is a Challenger: self-confident and decisive, but also willful and confrontational. This type has much in common with the Adventurer from Writer’s Guide to Character Traits. A Challenger will keep the conflict going in my story.
  • Myers & Briggs Personalities
    Finally, I matched the two previous listings with the sixteen categories of the well-known Myers & Briggs Personalities. You can Google a ton of information about Myers & Briggs, but click here for the MB Foundation. For my protagonist, I gave him the MB personality of the Promoter (ESTP), someone who is bold but also unstructured. See a pattern?

So that’s how I created my protagonist. However, this is just the beginning. I will develop his personality as I write the rough draft. The previously-mentioned tools will guide me .

NOTE: I chose to use all three. One or two would have been enough, but I just wanted to see what I could find for each character.

To me, these tools helped lay the foundation for the most difficult part of character creation: the personality. The inside. The abstract.

In the description of my protagonist, I also want to suggest more concrete and exterior characteristics. This would include:

  • Physical description.
  • Clothing tastes.
  • Dialogue distinctiveness.
  • Maybe a catch-phrase.
  • Pet peeves and fears.
  • Hobbies and habits.
  • Goals and desires.
  • How will the character change by the end of the story? And why?

I am chomping at the bit to start writing about the characters I’ve created for NaNoWriMo. My hope is that if you are having trouble laying the foundation for character creation, these tools I’ve mentioned will help you out.

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