Listing characters

The writing course I’m on is talking about creating characters. I actually have no problem with doing that, I have a whole load in my imaginary waiting room just hanging around until they’re needed. However the course is actually designed for people who are jut starting writing fiction; I’m doing it as a refresher and to maybe buck up my ideas.

The task for today is something I’m almost nervous about attacking because it really isn’t the way I go about characterisation… I don’t coldly sit down and think about making up a character, they don’t come to me like that. However, I shall have a go. It’s suggested we make a list of aspects and there is a list – which we don’t have to follow, but for the sake of the exercise, I will.

Physical/biological:

  • age – mid thirties
  • height – 5’10″ish
  • size – strong, muscular, lean
  • state of health – good, but maybe not eating too well because of financial situation
  • assets – virtually just the clothes he’s wearing, a couple of changes but that’s all
  • flaws – sometimes lacks a sense of humour (not surprising given his situation) can be inflexible
  • sexuality – straight
  • gait – long strides, slightly aggressive in appearance,- head jutting forward, shoulders braced, hands clenched
  • voice – quiet but strong when needed

Psychological:

  • intelligence – intelligent and aware, secretly erudite
  • temperament – at present slow fuse, quiet, calm, watchful, aware
  • happiness/unhappiness – not happy, emotions in suspended animation
  • attitudes – very private but is strongly anti-racist/homophobic/ misogynistic etc
  • self-knowledge – maybe too self-aware
  • unconscious aspects – sometimes seems threatening, even dangerous

Interpersonal/cultural:

  • family – never mentions family but is believed to have a child, and maybe a brother
  • friends – a loner but has associates he is close to, mysterious and unexpected, young single mother, elderly man, a police officer – no romantic interest
  • colleagues – has none, only occasional work mates
  • birthplace – unknown but maybe the north of England, southern Scotland
  • education – well-educated but doesn’t seem to have had regular education – maybe his parents were in the forces and he changed school frequently
  • hobbies – fighting of some sort, no-one actually knows
  • beliefs – unknown, but probably none
  • values – truth, honour, loyalty
  • lifestyle – simple
  • Personal history:
  • major events in their life – unknown but there must have been some serious event which led him to be in his present situation
  • including the best – unknown, but if he has a child then maybe he had a meaningful relationship once
  • … and the most traumatic times – unknown but they must have been desperate

This has given me a character, but he’s shadowy and unreal – making a list like this doesn’t bring him to life. For me it will be writing about him in situations which reveals the man he is, not this analysis… no this way of creating characters doesn’t work for me!!

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