You’ve got a great idea for a story and the action is ready to spill out onto the page. But before you get started, it’s well worth it to make sure your characters are firmly defined in your mind. In fact, they should feel as thought they are flesh and blood individuals that you are free to manipulate through your plot.
Brainstorm Characters for a Story
1. Start by listing, by sex and age, the characters in your story. Note who will turn out to be the dynamic personalities in the story; these characters will change their actions or their attitudes or beliefs by the time the story is over. It’s not really necessary to give a whole lot of individual characteristics to static characters. Static characters will basically remain the same from the story’s beginning to end.
2. Give your dynamic and static characters appropriate names. The general connotation of certain names often gives the reader immediate insight into some aspect of the character’s personality. For example, should a young girl about to go on her first blind date be called Candi or Bertha? The answer to that question depends on what perception you want the reader to have of her. The connotation of an older man named Alexander is quite different than an older man whose name is Gus. Look through books of baby names to find names which sound like they suit your characters; in doing so you will further define the characters to yourself.
3. Go through everyone you know, scanning your mind for individual characteristics of people at work, family members, neighbors, etc. Jot down single personality quirks or habits which you feel would fit your characters. For example, if you have an Uncle Joe who is always interrupting, no matter who is speaking, maybe that habit would work well for the young woman in your story. Perhaps she is always in a hurry and that causes her to interrupt people. Your boss absentmindedly, but continuously cracks, her knuckles; maybe there is an old man in your story who would do this as well.
4. Draw your character in the center of a full sheet of copy paper. Yes, this can be a stick figure. Do try, though, to show how fat or thin the character is, what the hair looks like, what kind of clothes he or she would choose, etc. If your drawing is really pathetic, just describe these physical attributes in words written on the various body parts.
5. Use this same sheet to continue the brainstorming. Now you’ve got a name and some habits and quirks for this character. Write those on one side of your drawing. Now take a half dozen or so ideas from the following list and expand on the ones you think particularly important to your character. Consider opinions, family background, values, level of boredom, and her interest in helping others. List your character’s hopes, goals and dreams. Describe their sense of humor and their sense of privacy. Outline your character’s self-confidence and his likes and dislikes.