Creating realistic, interesting, and well-rounded characters is one of the most crucial parts of the writing process. It’s something I probably need to go into more depth on, especially when it comes to detailed character maps. However, most of my character inspiration comes from a few different sources, especially when I’m still in the process of brainstorming them and their personalities. Today, I’m going to go over a few of my favorite places for character inspiration, so that you guys can make totally awesome characters in your books, too!
Though I’ll touch on this in the next point, starting off with characters in classic, copyright-free works is a great way of drawing character inspiration. In the last few years, there’s been a huge surge of retellings, whether it be fairytale or Shakespeare, so obviously, you can pull from that, too! I’m going to Stratford-upon-Avon in a few days, and I know I’ll be writing there, as well, so I hope I can get some of Shakespeare’s ol’ creative spirit while I’m there.
Alright, call me crazy.
I would say, however, that just relying on retellings and stock characters can get kind of boring. In that case, I would use it as a jumping board, and then put in some tips I list later to create more of your own character, and use other resources to make it more original for your story.
OTHER ARTISTIC WORKS
This point is a little vague and huge, but that’s because it’s pretty all-encompassing. Pulling character inspiration from other famous (or little known!) works and creating what’s called a composite character is something that’s totally easy and totally popular to do. I’ll make a blog post on this topic specifically in a few weeks, but of course, you don’t want to just pull a character straight out of another story (unless you’re doing Fanfiction, which is something totally different), because that would be called plagiarism and it’s totally not cool. However, if I read, say, seven books with seven different female characters, I could analyze the books for the character’s personalities and interests and draw character inspiration from the things I see. For instance, if I read The DUFF and really liked Bianca’s witty responses, I could draw from that, and pair it with a need to use comedy and mockery as a coping mechanism, like Bender from The Breakfast Club. Then, I could add on top of that the character’s need to protect their sick parent, a little like Wren in Fangirl, and as a quirk maybe a dash of obsession with a pop culture icon as someone to look up to, like Blair has with Audrey Hepburn on Gossip Girl.
You see what I mean?
You obviously want to make a well-rounded character, with flaws, strengths, weaknesses, interests, dislikes, and other works can be the perfect place to kick-start your imagination and pull ideas from.
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I’ve definitely talked about this before, because people-watching is one of my absolute favorite things to do as a writer. Sometimes, I’ll take a notebook, go to a library or train station, put in my headphones with no music in them, and just watch and listen. Sure, it might be kind of creepy. But as long as you don’t stare crazily at anyone and you try to make it look like you’re focused on writing (which you should be, because taking notes is the best way to remember these situations), most people don’t notice or care. If they do, just own up and apologize and maybe move somewhere else, no big deal.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Writers so often use people in their life as characters in their books, it’s become a running joke not to be mean to us or we’ll make you the villain in our story. All jokes aside, pulling inspiration from your family and friends is the perfect tool for any writer to have in their back pocket. When I was in a history class last year, I somehow got into a conversation with a fellow classmate about how all the girls in her family grew out their hair, and when it hit their waist, they braided it, cut it off, and put it in a display in their living room.
It was a GOLDMINE!
Now, I might not take the story word for word, but perhaps I could have a character who obsessively keeps a braid of her mother and little sister, because they died tragically in a fire when the character was ten. Then, that could spawn off into a fear of ever cutting her own, and in some situation, she’s tortured and forced to chop her hair off a-la Rapunzel in Tangled.
As you can see, the options are endless when it comes to compositing a character from people you know.
I haven’t used these as much, because most of the ones I’ve seen online are more centered around fantasy and I write more contemporary, but if you search online or even in bookstores, there are a ton of character generating resources just waiting to help you out. I’ve linked one or two below, but basically all you have to do is find the genre or plug in the terms you want to search for, and the site randomly strings together traits or other character components, making it the perfect tool for anyone looking for character inspiration on the fly.
In case you guys are ever looking for even more character inspiration, I have a Pinterest board dedicated to characterization you can follow! I repin anything from inspiration to writing well-rounded characters to writing villains or heroes, anything under the sun having to do with the starring roles in your book. Check it out below!