Creating a Main Character for Your Novel

As a writer and weaver of stories, one of my favorite things to do is create characters. I love writing characters more than writing their dialogue, explaining a world, or even creating a plot. Building a character makes you feel like you’re making a whole new person. Often, when you’ve finished, it’s hard to believe the character doesn’t exist in real life because it becomes so real in your head.

Here is my process for creating a main character.

Decide on Some Basic Things

First off, you’ll need to decide some basic things. Most likely, you already have these things figured out. Is the character a boy or a girl? Are they tall or short? What does he or she look like?

Give Them a Name

Naming is sometimes fun and sometimes really hard. When someone is born in real life, their name has a chance to shape them, and they have a chance to shape the perspective of others on their name. But in fiction, you have to be careful with the preconceptions you instill with the name. Does the name sound bratty? Does it sound too hipster? Will it make people think the character is dumb?

Personally, I feel that it’s usually best to go with a less common name so that people probably haven’t met someone with that name before. For my last novel, I used the name Gavryn, which is actually completely unheard of. I love that name because I was able to shape it to mean whatever I wanted to, instead of starting off with ideas for someone with that name. For my current novel, my character’s names are Elisa and Clairen. Clairen is fairly rare, whereas Elisa is an older name.

The important thing is that you choose a name you can shape throughout the story.

Build Their Personality

Now is the most complex part. You want to create someone with an intricate and consistent personality. Will they be an extrovert or an introvert? Will they be nice or mean? Will they be sharp or dull?

All of this is up to you, but unless you aim to confuse your reader, the golden rule must be consistency. All things said and done by the character must conform to what he or she is supposed to generally be like. All twists from this general idea must be accounted for and explained somehow.

Predetermine Their Character Arc

Lastly, you must decide what the character’s story within your story will be. Will they have a rebellious time but come back to the light? Will they stay loyal to their friend? Will they learn what true character means? Will they go head-to-head with the pope in Vatican City?!

It’s all up to you. Now, stop surfing the web and get to writing your story!

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The Birth of a Character

I like to write. And I like to write fiction. One of my favorite parts of writing is creating a new character. This post will explain how this process happens for me.

First Stage: A Plot is Formed

For me, a character is usually born of a plot. Some writers are introduced to a character in their imagination, then they proceed to tell the story of the character. Most of my characters, though, come when I create a plot and then want someone to be the star of the show. In other words, some people find an actor and then write a script for them, and others write a script and then find actors.

Second Stage: A Main Character Begins to Form

As I think about the plot, my imagination plays with characters. First, I decide how I want the main character to be. For my current and first novel, I really wanted the character to be a boy around my age, just cause that came to me first and it was easier. Then I decided I wanted a side teacher character, and I first went with a man. Then through some more thinking, I decided this teacher character would be a woman.

Third Stage: The Character is Named

Depending on what the character is supposed to be, I give them a name. For some characters, they need a name that doesn’t exist in our world, or a good explanation for why they have a name from our world. Other characters require a futuristic name, or an old name. For my main character in this novel, he was supposedly set into the future, so I gave him a name that sounded slightly futuristic (Gavryn). The side teacher character was named Elise at first, then was given the name Esiw, which is wise spelled backwards, reflecting her wise spirit.

Fourth Stage: The Character Finds a Personality

Next, you form the character’s personality. For me, this sprouts from one main idea, then blossoms into a whole set of characteristics. For example, I wanted Esiw to be a wise teacher (obviously). Soon she became a rich character with intricacies and authentic problems.  With Gavryn, I just wanted him to be somewhat like me. Then he became a very thoughtful young lad, with worries and fears and a mind for deep thought.

Fifth Stage: The Character is Written

First of all, you must keep them consistent. If you introduce a foolish character in the first chapter and then show them being the wise hero, you better have a good reason. I keep consistency by familiarizing myself with the character and remembering their ‘tagline’ so-to-speak.

Then you have to let the character be a person. With one side character in my novel, I was going to have her be a very distant, quiet mystic. But as she was written… she became a lot less quiet and a lot more like Anne of Green Gables. That’s just how it works. If characters don’t have a life of their own, they’ll just be dead characters.

So that’s how I create characters! I just thought I’d log this so that I could see it when I was older and more of a writer. I hope you enjoyed reading!