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TC’s Tutorials: Create that Character!


by tambourine_chimp

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So you have an idea for a great Neopian Times story? No, what you have is THE greatest story of all great stories, the epitome of greatness, the best story the NT has ever seen, and will ever see!

There’s just one problem; you have no character! Without your main character, how are you going to have the adventure? It’s like Garin being on Kreludor when what you really need is for him to be in Maraqua, where the adventure is! Plain and simply; no character – no story, you just can’t write even the simplest of tales without one, let alone the amazing epic you have in mind!

1) The Name of Fame

So where do you start when it comes to creating a character that is just right for your story? Well, a name would be as good a place as any! But, like the character, the name has to suit the story you intend place it in. After all, you can’t have a hero called Henry Smithington VII if you’re planning a space saga, right? And what use is Hagar the Dragonslayer when it comes to solving mysteries?

No, a Neopian character’s name should match the character itself. This can be achieved in a variety of different ways, here are just a few and hopefully they’ll inspire you to think of new ways.

First, what are the main characteristics of your main character? Is he charming, sarcastic, happy, glum, evil, zany, serious, logical, dumb, what? Once you get a good idea of the kind of person you want to write about, the name should come more easily. For example, say I wanted to write about a cheerful little girl who discovered a rare new flower that had magic powers. Well, there I’ve already described what she’s like, what she does and has done! Now all I’d have to do is think of all the happy, cheerful-sounding names a girl could have. Already I can think of a few; Heidi, Sunny, Rei (as in ray of sunshine), Eve…the list could go on and on, believe me.

Now, for an exercise, we’ll do the same again, but this time with a different character. Let’s say we want to write all about the exploits of a posh, sour-faced man who refuses to be happy and never takes part in any Neopian holidays. What would you call him? Write down four or five names then scroll down to see how close you got to what I would have called him.

Ready?

Right, did you call the grumpy old so-and-so any of these (or anything close to these)? The names I chose were Frederick, Harold, Ebenezer (or Scrooge if you really must), Mr. Smith (too boring to have a first name) and Henry Edwards Blythe.

Okay, so the last one was a bit unfair, but a long posh-sounding name could instantly portray a stuck-up, pompous character far better then a block of descriptions ever could. Just the mere fact that he chose to live with it would tell your readers what a puffed up prune he actually is from the offset. Other than that, were any of your chosen names close to any of mine? If so, then well done! You’re getting the hang of this…but if not, never mind! Just keep trying that little method (a trait, then a simple description of the storyline, then draw your names from the two), and you’ll be originally naming your characters in no time!

2) Conversations with Characters

I know what you’re thinking; “Watch out, the Chimp’s flipped…again,” and usually I’d agree with you, but I’m absolutely serious. Once you have an idea for a story, a basic plot (no, they’re not entirely the same thing. For example, a story can be about finding lost treasure, but the plot would tell the reader how it was found, by whom and what happened to them whilst they searched for it), and a good name for your character, there’s not much more you can do other than choose a species and a color for your character, right?

WRONG.

You see, even the greatest premise of a character can fall apart at the seams if it isn’t solid enough, not fully fleshed-out and 3-D. By this, of course, I mean that every character needs more than just the bare essentials. A name, species and color are all very well, but when it comes to the crunch in your story, you won’t know what to do 9 times out of 10 because you haven’t sat down and thought what kind of person your character will be. Placing him in some ancient death-trap isn’t the cleverest option if you aren’t sure your character can handle it, you need a level-headed, experienced adventurer who never panics and laughs in the face of danger!

So how are you supposed to find out what type of person your character is, I hear you ask? Well, the answer is simple enough, but it sounds totally insane to those that don’t stop and think: you talk to your character.

Yes, that’s right; sit you and your character down on the imaginary ground under some tree that isn’t really there and talk. Get to know him or her, ask them what they want in life, what they enjoy doing, what their short-term aspirations are, a little bit about their past, whatever you believe will help you gain a better understanding of your character…and here’s the really crazy bit. Your character will actually appear to be answering your questions by themselves. It’s true! This is because somewhere deep inside your mind you already have a firm understanding of your character’s life, or, to put it another way, you character is already there, inside your head. Writing down this conversation will help bring out that hidden information about them, making all the much easier to write a story around them!

3) Plan Ahead

Well, you’ve nearly done it; your own complete character. You’ve given them a great name, really got to know them, and now you’re ready to begin their adventures…but hold up! One more thing before I leave you to your own devices.

You see, every author plans ahead before they right a story, even if it’s just a sentence or two ahead at a time. This is to help stop the common mistake of putting your character in a position that he or she just wasn’t meant (or created) to deal with. What do I mean by this? Well, imagine you’ve spent a very long time creating a character that is good being friendly, peaceful, and so on…the last thing you’d want to put them up against is a huge Grarrl aching for a fight…your character just wouldn’t be able to do anything!

And if, by some amazing stroke of luck, they were…then you’ll have cheated by making the character do something the reader knew they weren’t supposed to do. This is called a Deus Ex Machina, and is generally frowned upon as a last resort as it causes you to take the quick and easy way out of a difficult situation.

To stop such things happening, think ahead as far you think is necessary in order to avert any such situations from arising. You’ll find its easier then it sounds, believe me on that.

Well, there you go! Hopefully, in these 3 short and simple steps you’ve been able to create a more solid, understandable character that you will be able to use more efficiently in your stories to come.

Until next time!

Author’s Note: Hope this helped! Feel free to Neomail me with any comments an/or suggestions for future tutorials! Bye!

 
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