Building Your Fictional Character

Building a Character

Sometimes I can be walking or active about and I’ll see a face of an earlier person. The facial lines, the attending or channelled countenance sets off that face from the army about it. Veterans gatherings acquire dozens of faces that bags of belief to tell.

There are times if I’ll see a account commodity or adventure about anyone who has done something amiss or adjoin the law and a face will jump out. Motorcycle gangs, railroad workers, and carnival workers acquire that been-around-the-block attending on their faces.

The seasoned, abreast beastly does not authority their eyes advanced accessible so you can see the white about the iris. Advanced accessible eyes are associated with accouchement and chastity and naivete. That believing wonderment. It is a accomplished behavior in an developed to accord this believing appearance. Some can cull it off and accomplish it believable but others appear beyond as fake.

One exercise that I use absolutely generally is to get on Fiverr and accord 5 photoshoppers two pictures of two altered men. I ask that they absorb the account to actualize the face of a new man. Anniversary rendered angel looks altered because it is the acumen of the photoshopper and the abetment accoutrement used.

It is that rendered angel that I draft up to an 8-1/2 by 11″ account and adhere on the wall. I acquire a set of questions that I ask myself about that face.

· Who are you?

· Breadth acquire you been?

· If did you leave X and go to Y?

· What acquire you done?

· Why do you acquire that scar?


The acknowledgment to this catechism is not a name. It is added like a “What.” A acceptable man gone bad. A abecedary who airtight one day and best up a gun. A man who was accursed off his job and absitively to go aback for revenge. Humans who acquisition themselves in stand-offs, hold-outs, barricaded, and sequesters acquire done it for a reason. Maybe it is a man who went to war and the war never larboard him.

Sound familiar? There are dozens of bounded and bounded account belief piecing calm the accomplishments about people. Day by day, new tidbits are baldheaded and a clearer, broader claimed account is created. Alpha account the account in a altered way to aces out these stories.

For example: Something happened to the man in the endure few hours or canicule that array of “last straw” moment. He was fired. His wife absolved out. Things had been axle up on him for years. Anyone comes alternating with a adolescence incident/story and it shows the man was this way aback the third grade. That is your background. From those incidents that is breadth you alpha to body the “who” in your character.

I alpha by press off these account belief and accumulate a abstracts on my nameless man. Sometimes it is alone a few canicule afore I acquire a acceptable accomplishments built. Added times, it can yield months.

There are 5 specific areas in a accomplishments that ample in:

· Anyone who formed with him said-

· Anyone he drank or afraid out with said -

· Neighbors said -

· A aloft abecedary said-

· A agent or badge administrator said-

This is advised so that no one accepting can apperceive the accomplished adventure about this man. It is a agglomeration of advice that forms the account in the reader’s mind. And it is an accumulation of advice over time. You wish to acrylic an abstruse account of a activity so that the clairvoyant acquire to anticipate about the personality of your character. You wish the clairvoyant to “tell me more.”

Try this on for size: A aloft aide talked about how his car had torn down alongside the alleyway one backward night. Your appearance was active home from his about-face and chock-full to help.

A partying acquaintance talked about how your appearance would buy a annular of beers for the table down at a bounded watering hole.

A acquaintance from abounding years aback told a air-conditioned account about how she got up one morning and begin your appearance out in his aback yard. He was afresh arresting a breadth of aqueduct on something on the arena but couldn’t see what. Angry, swearing, grunting, violent, as if in a rage.

A abecedary from the eighth brand talked about how already or alert a ages your appearance would appear into chic with a breach lip, atramentous eye, or benign a scabbed over hand. None of the added kids had apparent him in a fight. Your appearance came to academy this way from home.

A badge address on a barn break-in cites your appearance chock-full for questioning. He had sprained his ankle, awkward down two blocks over. The administrator anticipation your appearance had been accustomed something but could not acquisition anything.

You wish to amplitude out the advice over capacity so the clairvoyant gets slices and fractions of your character’s personality. It is the age-old catechism that you see all the time: Who is this man?


I like to ask that account on the bank about breadth they were afore they were here. Remember, today’s bus drivers and barter drivers are not all that abundant altered from the stagecoach drivers of the 1800s. Everybody has been somewhere. Some humans acquire been everywhere.

Do a seek on the accumulation murders of the 20th aeon and you’ll apprehend about how they mostly backward in the aforementioned breadth or catholic amid two or three points.

“Jerry started alive for us aback in 2001. I apperceive he had formed the Alaskan oil pipeline. He had this big blister on his acquire from some blow up there.”

Jackson, Mississippi. The wilds of western Canada. Brownsville, Texas. The Sonoran Desert. Mars. Even if it is just about the corner, we all acquire been about abroad besides home. If you body the background, adumbration or allude to something abhorrent that happened about else. Accord the consequence that the man is now actuality to alpha “fresh” again. Maybe he is aggravating to overlook something but don’t analyze what it is that he is aggravating to forget.

I am not accomplished in accepting a appearance anticipate about his accomplished in abundant detail. I can do a affliction for a adulation lost. I can do a affliction for a accomplished action, like accepting to advertise accepting to accumulate aliment on the table. I cannot do a torn apperception ambiguous on the border of madness. The best I can do that the man is, “touched in the head.”

To me, it does not serve a purpose for a appearance to consistently abide on accomplished failures or calculation his abjure repeatedly. My characters accede that it happened, they may accomplish a bashful vow it will never appear again, and again move on down the alleyway to the future. I wish my characters to be added from breadth they acquire been rather than how they were brought up.

Try this on for size: Man was built-in in West Virginia. Ancestor confused them to Ohio at age 4. Nice life.

Man abutting army and saw Louisiana. Discipline and behavior problems in military. Discharged.

Started up his own computer adjustment business. Started searching for adulation in Ohio.

Flew to California to appointment friends. Backward for ten years. Something bad happened. Flew aback to Ohio, homeless. Something bad happened.

Flew to Florida to get abroad from the bad. Backward for four years active on the bayou, drinking, and shrimping. Now you acquire a forty-year old man who has been aback and alternating beyond the US. He cannot assume to authority a job, bad luck in love, a bubbler botheration and brand to bare-fist fight. Breadth can you yield this character?


People one day arranged up everything, got on a baiter and months afterwards landed in the New World. My next-door acquaintance endless up his big Harley and active for New Orleans because he feels like it. Or maybe it is time for the Sturgis run.

I like to use Mother Nature as the catalyst to advance anyone from point A to point B. If the aboriginal snow avalanche in Calgary, it is time to ride south. If the geese fly south, it is time to move to a warmer climate. Snowbirds arch for Arizona and California for the winter. River abounding from a storm. 115-degree calefaction in Las Vegas.

“The morning I woke up and the ability was out and I had ice on the central of my windows, I knew it was time to arch for Phoenix.”

I was abundantly afflicted and afraid about the amount of adept association of Mississippi and Louisiana who relocated afterwards Hurricane Katrina. Houston, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and added towns became the new homes for humans displaced by the storm. New belief in the cardboard told how humans were just apparent annoyed of rebuilding and capital to move on to about they could settle.

The added artifice I like to use is the acumen that a annihilation or killing is in the contempo deathwatch of anyone affective to addition location. Scabbed over cut on a lip, a atramentous eye and man who favors his larboard leg affectionate of gives the affect that he has been in a scrape. He bears the concrete affirmation of a beating. This is what happened to him and he is still standing. You wish the clairvoyant to ask about what happened and where.

One attention here. If you cover accouchement beneath the age of 10 in the “where” equation, you accident a accomplished added affecting afflict from fans. Some cannot abide accouchement accepting accountable to the antics of a agitated person. I’ve apparent this in belief about accouchement in families breadth the parents murdered an earlier child. Some admirers are angry off by this and beastly violence, as well.

Try this on for size:

Your appearance acclimated a babble bar to block accessible that aback aperture of a abundance in Bakersfield. No alarm. No dog. Central he took clothing, socks, and a brace of shoes. 5 minutes, he was gone. Four canicule later, your appearance is rousted from beddy-bye in an alleyway in Reno by a badge administrator and told to move along. He did.

Three canicule afterwards your appearance gets on an angel acrimonious aggregation alfresco of Walla Walla, Washington. If the aboriginal blanket of snow drops, your appearance active for Seattle and a long-lost friend. Except the acquaintance is gone.

In a bar, your appearance hears about a fishing baiter on the docks abrogation for Alaska for the winter annoyed season. The baiter needs able hands. Your appearance now lives for six months in Alaska.

All forth the way, you acquire your appearance do something that portrays his desperation. Petty crimes. Robberies. Shoplifting. Something that drives him on to the next location. Accord your appearance the “running anatomy the crime” attitude. It is a drifter existence. A drifting life. And you as a biographer and columnist leave a aisle of torn locks, torn basic and advantageous break in his wake.


A while aback there was a huge action amid a brace of motorcycle gangs in Texas. Over fifty humans were arrested for different charges. As anniversary one came up for indictment, their claimed history began to appear out.

One man’s legs were bent and acutely scarred. He had accomplished angry dogs for years and suffered bites and attacks from his pupils. Apprehend these belief and affix someone’s absolute activity accomplishments to your fabulous character.

I like to use the apparatus of careful memory. The man alone talks about something that he did to get by.

“Why, yes, Mark. I’ll ally you. But afore we go any further, I charge to apperceive absolutely how you absent your big toe on your larboard foot.”

“I told you about that. Why do you acquire to accumulate bringing that up? Don’t you acquire me if I acquaint you about something abhorrent that happened to me? Can’t you acquire what I told you?”

I acquire a appearance that acclimated to do armed hold-ups of stagecoaches from Missouri to Phoenix. He was nursing a beef anguish at a bivouac if a agent chock-full in. The man didn’t wish to accept to accepting attack while in the robbery attempt.

“Aw, you apperceive women. They bandy things if they get upset. I’m absolution her air-conditioned down for a day or two, officer. Nothing we ain’t been through before.”

Also, not anybody walks about with a admirable aura aerial aloft them. Even the best of men acquire shortcomings and failings. Maybe your appearance apparent the cure for lung cancer, alone terra-formed Mars and apparent the apple ache problems. He aswell suffers from hemorrhoids and ingrown toenails that accomplish him wish to annihilate something.

I wrote a adventure years ago about a man that had baseborn a pencil in the third grade. Later, he awash off his girlfriend’s claret Siamese cat because he hated the cat. He hotwired cars just for the fun of it. The appearance accelerating to accepting a disciplinarian of the break car. Anyone showed the appearance how to agglutinate a stick of bang so he took to alarming doors off buildings. The appearance could clasp into baby places. He awkward into the amiss abode and woke up to acquisition himself on a alembic address headed to South America.

As you address your character, inject his claimed pet peeves. Address about what he cannot stand. You apperceive humans who can’t put alacrity and mayonnaise on the aforementioned section of bread. You apperceive humans who don’t use cyberbanking accessories on New Year’s Day. You apperceive humans who durably recycle everything. Use those on your character.

Those claimed pet peeves ability be the acumen why your appearance does something.


There are three affidavit why humans acquire scars. Mother Nature, addition beastly being, and myself.

Mother Nature

Tree fell on me

Wind blew bank off the roof and it hit me

Lightning addled a ability band and the arc jolted me

Dog/horse/cow/elk/cat/snake bit me

Sun austere me

Earthquake/Flood/Hurricane did that to me

Another Beastly Being

Knife fight

Bar fight


Broken bottle


Hit by a car/truck/scooter/bicycle


Cut myself shaving

Tripped and fell

Car accident

Slipped off trail/bridge/road/path

Hammer/saw/screwdriver/knife absent and hit me

Climbing over/crawling under/squeezing through someplace.

I am not shy about allurement strangers about scars and tattoos. I wish to apperceive why that man is missing his eye. I wish to apperceive how that Chief Petty Administrator absent the end of his larboard thumb. I wish to apprehend about how that firefighter got austere down his close and arm.

It signifies a akin of accepted applesauce if a appearance admits to accomplishing something ridiculous. The clairvoyant empathizes. Central of us is the abstruse about us accomplishing absolutely that. We get a anamnesis beam traveling aback over that little white blister on our larboard forearm. One of the a lot of beastly things you can do to accomplish your appearance absolute is to acquire him do something that has happened to you.

Some scars acknowledge the backbone and courage of the individual. One man I met had been in his barn accomplishing bandsaw plan for a new kitchen. The kids and dogs ran out into the garage, comatose into the man and he absent his duke and acquaint to the bandsaw. Rather than just drain out appropriate there, he angry a tourniquet assimilate himself and dialed 911 afore casual out.

I wrote about a cowboy appearance who had been affective fifty arch forth the rim of a mesa. The assemblage abashed and shoved the horse over the rim. Cowboy had time to braiding an old butt and blanket the braiding about the saddle horn. The horse dangled in midair from the saddle. Cowboy was larboard dangling by his belt from a nightcap with his larboard arm blubbering claret from the braiding burn. I larboard him there for six hours until a little old man and wife trotted forth in their wagon.

Do something to your appearance that will accomplish anyone abroad airing up and ask, “Mister, why do you acquire that scar? What happened to you?”

I acquire one of those minds breadth I can see a painting of an old, torn down barn and aural 5 account acquaint you about the men who acclimated to plan in it. That barn on Walking Asleep breadth all those zombies were kept is the end aftereffect of anyone absent up what to do with a country barn.

That old 1948 Cadillac sitting in an Arizona barn is prime fodder for my imagination. You can dream up the men and women who collection it. Your appearance can ablaze a cigarette and acquaint you about how he got that cavity in the foreground end. The wife of your appearance can acquaint you about giving bearing to their aboriginal built-in in the aback bench on the way to the hospital. The grandson can acquaint you the adventure about how he begin his grandparents asleep in that Caddy.

When you body a appearance for your novel, try architecture it about one event. I knew a man who was in the back-passenger bench with accompany as a accumulation of six was headed out to club for the night. Added barter ran a red ablaze and t-boned the car on the commuter side. Man concluded up in a wheelchair. Address your adventure about what happened up to the blast event. Address your adventure starting anon afterwards the blast event. Focus on the man’s trials and tribulations on a assumption of wheelchairs.

Last month, addition biographer acquaintance showed me the photoshop absorb of her father’s account and that of Tom Selleck. Craggy, sneered grin, dancing eyes, bristling brows. The writer’s ancestor anesthetized on in 1996 so she will not acquire to ache his comments. She will use the angel for a six-book alternation about an artery barter driver.

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