At the beginning there is always the character. Who is it? An animal, a human, something of both or something entirely else?
If you already have a character you write for, be sure of these things in particular:
- Who is it? In name, appearance, and notable characteristics
Anything from their character, something visually striking, their gender. No matter if you are writing something original or not, you should have these ready. I will explain these with a Character named “Null” from now on to make it easier.
Visually, things like hairstyles (are they bald? Or luscious hair?) How they are being addressed (pronouns and gender), what about a prosthesis?
Any animal features or special add-ons like a robot arm for example?
Let’s illustrate this with my character Null. She has legs that end in claws, and the skin is covered in feathers. So she is a Griffin. Now, we add a bit of the color details. I like to take notes on paper or in a document, just write down anything you can think of! And if you are artistically a bit more adept, you might even want to sketch them down.
It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but having a visual guide is really helpful. If you are writing a reader insert story, you don’t have to think about this point of visualization or characterization much, but we are going to tackle it in its chapter later.
- The Age
Depending on it’s age, your character changes appearance, behavior and interests according to their age. My Null is very old, but for her species she is pretty young with her 150 years. What about your character? Are they different species with a longer lifespan?
- Likes and Dislikes
I am going to talk about this in another chapter a bit more in depth, but if your story plays in the Middle Ages, your character can’t love mobile games and love to blog (unless they are being Isekai-ed and suddenly bring electricity over, who knows?).
Think about the options you have for your character in the environment they are placed in. Null likes to catch fish and steal shiny things, like a magpie. She can fly and loves to spend her time with her friends, and really dislikes rain.
Just like this, you, the reader, learned in which environment she might live in, as she has friends and likes to collect.
Everybody has their likes and dislikes. You don’t like to eat what you are being presented with, either. (is your character maybe a vegetarian?). Look for two opposites, but also think of how you execute these. A character with height fright can’t like rock climbing up the mountains much.
- Strengths and Weaknesses
To avoid writing a Mary Sue (unless that is your intention, a Mary Sue is a flat character that is perfect in any shape or form, and is super popular and loved by everyone-type of character, more below) you should spend some time thinking about this point.
Nobody is perfect, something you probably know by looking at yourself, there are things you are excellent at and some you are just not as good at.
For example: Null can draw really well, but she is terrible at math. Not everybody is super great and talented, unless that is your intended character, to write a super genius that won the gene lottery and was just born with everything coming easy to them?
We all learn and grow. Adding more talents to our inner talent pool. At the beginning, your character might still be a bit clumsy, but later she might improve and learn how to deal with it? A heated personality is not going to stay calm in tough situations. But maybe because of this he can fight well?
If you can’t think of any characteristics, then I suggest looking up a list on the internet, there are some already showing you opposites that might help you to build your character.
The Character Background
Sad or terrible, funny or other life experiences shape us and make up our character. Has your character maybe been scarred, mentally or physically? Artificial body parts or scars should be explained, they can add to your character’s value and as a person.
Your character likes chocolate, but not white chocolate? Then, think of why this is the case (yes, this is a terrible example). Experiences and interests merge with each other. Traumatizing events shape them differently, and they have a different focus and world view. What happened? What made your character the way he is now?
For an existing character, most of these aspects have been already explained and covered in the story. If that is not the case, you can add your own logical events. This means, not to add things that wouldn’t make sense for the world they live in, and clash with the character’s personality and experience. Think about the character’s family! Are they alive, do they still live? What’s the relationship to the parents? Everything can shape a character and make it more interesting.
Mary Sue – Gary Stu
A Mary Sue is a character that is just simply perfect. Loved by everyone, has good grades, or just wins in everything they are part of. Gary Stu is the male term for Mary Sue, which is just the same, basically.
She is perfect, her body and face ideal, and her knowledge endless. Every problem can be solved with a snap of her fingers.
This character can be used for you if you want to write a short story about something where the relationships and characteristics are not necessarily needed. In a different genre, where you want to not have a Mary Sue, look out for the perks we talked about and stuff your characterization a bit out.
But, writing just Mary Sue characters is a style, and there are entire communities writing them on purpose. So if you want to commit to one: go ham, have fun, become the ultimate power fantasy! If not, we talk about how to here 😀
The character´s world and surroundings
You have all sorts of freedom, to create your own worlds and design it to your liking. Think about the Flora and Fauna (Plant and Animal life), the physics in this world, how people live. Can they use magic? Can humans fly? What technical advances do they have? Are some people robots?
These are just some guiding questions to help you out a bit.
My example character Null can fly, and magic is something everyone has and nothing unusual. But some people never got magic and one day magic is going to die out, if less and fewer people are born with magic adapted bodies.
Think of the past of your world (as long as it’s important) and how it developed over time. If you write a Fan fiction (shortened as FF from now on) you just need to adapt everything laid out in the movies, anime, manga, whatever your source is and adapt it. Of course, there is always space to become creative!
Language is something important to think about as well. Writing your own language is a gigantic task, although it would make your writing something unusual and make it stand out more. If language does not really matter in your setting, then you should not go into it too deep in your writing.