“Some of the most influential people in our lives are the characters we meet in books” – David McCullough
One of the most critical and starting point of writing a book is to identify and create the characters. This step can decide the success or failure of the entire script.
A character can be anything – a person, animal or a thing representing the novel, play or series. They are the most influential and impacting source guiding the readers through the entire plot and keeping them captivated throughout. Character evolves with the story and story revolves around the character.
Remember the fictional character ‘The Joker’ from the movie ‘The Dark Knight’ who was characterized as a ruthless and a sadist psychopath. Every time we talk about the movie the first thought is the super villain ‘The Joker’. Every thought why is that?
That’s the power of a character which imprints our mind and remains with us. It is the character that gives the story a knocking boost and can bolster its entire essence.
Now an interesting question has often been debated. Is it the character or the plot which is more important? What is more critical in the making of a wholesome and remarkable script? Well, the answer is both the character and the story assist in designing and crafting a master piece. None of them can be sidelined. Think about it. A strong plot with weak characters can be such a disaster and we have seen many such instances. On the other hand, a weak plot with strong characters can lead to a mediocre outcome.
Characters like Tom & Jerry, Mickey Mouse or He-Man are typical examples of cases where a strong character with a beautiful and strong script can make marvelous creations. If any of these were missed out probably these series would not have become the classics or all ages.
A character brings your story to life and narrates it to the audience just the way you like it to and hence, it is imperative to sketch the perfect persona. To do this, we need to first know and identify its role, involvement and duration. Simply giving a name, occupation and a relation doesn’t make a character. It needs to have a personality and individuality.
Remember, you are creating a person with a mind, heart, feelings, attitude and intellect. And while doing so, it needs to be in line with your story. If the character’s personality does not go well with the role you have assigned or does not display the right emotions and feelings then it turns out to be a perfect mismatch.
Don’t be in a rush while you are shaping this vital piece. Lot of thinking, research and creativity is needed when planning the person you are creating. Think yourself as The Creator and shape the entire person who needs to live the story you have knitted. Be descriptive yet not draggy about the appearance, behavior and nature. This is extremely important because the reader’s needs to relate this fictional person with a face they can imagine based out of your words. Visual imaginations always add authenticity and personal touch. Remember Mills and Boons which has been stereotyped with the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ hero. The focus has always been consistent and beautifully described on how he looked and this image has been etched so deeply that we automatically create a vision in our minds.
Also, do not forget that knowing your character inside out includes knowing and understanding the reason and history for their certain personality. This would help to better outline their characteristics and relate to the other titles of the book. You may choose to put this history in words or opt out as per the need of the script; however this gives a lot of realism and validity.
The next thing to be careful about is displaying your character with the right equilibrium of words, actions and their mere presence. What this means is that you need to find the right balance between how much you want to say about the idol in words and how much needs to be shown by the part its playing, involvement, appearance and emotions involved.
For eg – If your character is a docile, dejected and pain stricken victim then you need to reflect certain events where the fictional figure is crying and complaining. On the other hand, if your character is a Robin Hood then he needs to be the strong and smart hero dressed as a cowboy riding the horse and saving the neglected.
Finally, make a list of all the people you want to include in your story. This list may change as the recital develops however, the most essential and pillars of the book needs to be well thought and researched. There is no set number of characters needed to make a good book. There are master pieces like “The Shadows” by Clark Ashton Smith which involve just one character too. So make a list based on the part played and the importance they carry and not just to follow a trend or a myth.
Above all, feel from your heart and write from your mind. If you can feel your characters then the audience would.