After following the plan detailed in our last lesson, Solving For Plot, your have yourself a plot, a setting and a chapter outline. Now you need characters to fill your story.
Sometimes characters emerge from your imagination like Athena. They are fully formed, well rounded and carry a pet owl. That’s awesome. This act of fictional parthenogenesis is an amazing miracle and if are a witness to this, more power to you.
For the rest of us, we have to make our characters. Every birth is unique but they tend to share these common concerns.
First of all, your plot that you already laid out will be very helpful. The type of story you want to tell as well as the scenes you have already expressed an interest in writing will give you an idea of the shape of the character hole you need to fill. In our example, we decided on a plot involving a kinky school for post high school, pre college women. We decided on a slutty uncouth girl who becomes refined through the ordeal of the story. Just from this description, I bet most of you already have an image of this character in your mind. That’s good but don’t lock that image into stone just yet. It is very important to stay flexible at this point.
Go through your vague outline and ask yourself what kind of character will be good in this story. If you absolutely have to have a detention scene, you need to know if you would rather write about a character who doesn’t deserve her detention and is being unjustly punished, or if you have a bad girl who deserves it. If she deserves it then why? Does she smoke? does she talk back? As these questions arise, you will gravitate to the answers you like best and this will flesh out your character.
At this point, the demands of your plot might require a character you have no interest in writing. For example, my first thought was of a woman I knew a few years ago that I pretty much despised. Obviously I don’t want to write about a character like her. Lucky for me, I can think of other character models to use. If I couldn’t though, I would go back to the plot and tweak it. Maybe I would change it to a good girl who wants to be valedictorian so the theme changes to can she be the best instead of a grand change altogether.
In a long story, character creation is more like casting an actress for your text movie. You are looking for characters that fit your story as opposed to coming up with an all purpose cool character. It might be cool to have a computer student without a gag reflex, but is that the kind of character best served by this story?
At this stage I kindly suggest the role less taken. Especially in genre fiction, I feel it is important to create characters who break stereotypes. Hot young thin girls with big tits are the stars of BDSM fiction every where. Go with a different body type, a different racial type or cultural type that you haven’t read before. Unless your story absolutely demands the typical cliche character, don’t be trapped into using them.
Once you have this main character in mind, it comes time for that very special moment where you name them. Do not treat this lightly. Not only are you creating a name you will have to type and work with for several months, but you will create a name that you might have to keep hearing till the day you die depending on how popular your character is. I’m just so glad I like the name, Amaya. The same goes for Amy Valentine and Bethany Taylor. Names have power, and the name you pick will imprint into your readers.
Personally, I like using web sites that give me the most popular baby names for specific years. I plug in the year my character was born and start searching through the choices available. It is surprisingly effective in creating names that people unconsciously identify as belonging to a certain age group.
I also do a lot of work in picking names that hold certain meanings. Sometimes a meaning can help me remember the role a character has. I picked the name Hannah in my story about an unhappy house wife because I read that the name means ‘passion’. I wanted a reminder as a writer that when in doubt, rely on Hannah’s passion to drive the story.
Some times, I pick a name because of the way it looks on the screen. In my Spring Break BDSM story, I liked the name Cassie because it has the word ‘ass’ in it and I knew I wanted a lot of spanking. I picked Amaya for a chubby Asian girl because all those ‘a’s and that ‘m’ are a bunch of curves. It’s a curvy name that is exotic, much like Amaya.
For this example, I would go with the name, Samantha. It was the 5th most popular name for the year the character was born. It has an ‘S’ that makes me think of sub, slave or slut. It can be shortened, which in mind is what young people do to their name until they hit adulthood. Anything that leaps out at you is legitimate. For the most part, these are things that will never come up in the story. These are just for you.
About now I write a short description of my main character. Samantha is a young woman who was blessed with really beautiful brown hair at a young age. This spoiled her for attention early on, which led to her having rather easy sex as a way of affirming her esteem. So this beautiful, self centered girl with long brown hair fancies herself something of a superior sexual being and wants to go to the kinky school. There she will find her willingness to fuck anything that moves to not be an asset, nor will her beauty get her what she wants. Heck, maybe her hair will get cut at some point and she will rebuild from the blow to her image. I don’t know yet. I’ll lock it down as I make the other characters.
As you can guess, the other characters follow similar processes. The key difference is that Samantha is now an element that the characters conform to. Since I decided to make a main character that was obsessed with her hair, I might define other characters by their hair. Or maybe I’ll define them by school movie cliches. The important thing is that Samantha is now a central point of navigation. All characters lead back to her. I would go so far as to say that if a side character doesn’t teach you anything about Samantha, then they need to be replaced.
At this point and at every point, you have the ability to go back. I came up with the idea of making Samantha’s hair important a few minutes ago. I can go back and revise everything if I wanted to. Or I could decide it’s really dumb and take away her great hair and maybe make her love of oral sex is what made her a popular slut. Either way, reformat your long story idea many times with your new information. Some of my best stories come from a late addition that I retrofitted back through out the rest of the plot.
Look what you have so far. You have a plot with chapter ideas. You have a main character. You have a cast for your character to interact with. Now what?
Now you have to write the damn thing. That’s next lesson.
Your homework assignment is this: Cast your main character. Give them a name and explain why that is their name. Give them traits that matter to you and matter to the plot.
This assignment counts to 30% of your grade.