Characters. They’re the most important part of the story, right? They are to me. I believe that for a story to be truly great, it needs to have great characters that the reader can relate to and enjoy reading about. Otherwise, you’re left with a useless plot and no characters to reach out and bring the reader into the story!
Once you have this in mind, you still need to consider how much time you want to spend on character creation. Obviously, this will depend on what kind of story you’re writing. For flash fiction, I spend maybe 10 minutes on character creation, and while that may not seem like a lot, stick with me and I’ll explain. For the current novella I’m writing, The Chosen Two, I’ve spent about 30 minutes on character creation so far on one of the main characters and I intend on spending another 30 minutes diving into the other main character. For my current WIP novel, however, I’ve spent days on character creation alone!
The point is that it’s important to determine how long you want to spend on character creation beforehand, because it’s certainly something you can get carried away with. You can spend a long time on character creation for a flash fiction piece, though I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re submitting it for a contest or something similar. One of the most important things to learn as a writer is how to efficiently manage your time while still putting out the best product possible.
Now, this is probably where pantsers and planners will differ. As a pantser, I spend time laying the foundations for my characters, but I mostly learn about them through actually writing the story. This is one of the most beautiful things to me when it comes to being a pantser, or “discovery writer.” I start out with a little idea, and as I write, that idea grows bigger and bigger until it’s more complex than I could have ever imagined.
And it’s this way for my characters as well. They’re the most important parts of my story, but I don’t dedicate a whole lot of time to their creation initially. Instead, I see how they develop the story based on the foundation I’ve set. Then, I may go back and spend some more time developing them if it’s needed (as with my full-length novel).
One thing that’s helped me a lot when it comes to maximising my time in this way is a unique character creation sheet. These little beauties are often tedious, making you fill out a million irrelevant facts about your character. When you think about it, these trivial facts aren’t actually helpful in writing your character. You can decide if your character prefers coffee or tea in the spur of the moment while you’re writing (as long as it’s not a major plot point); what you can’t decide on the fly is why your character is deciding to leave home, why they’re unsatisfied at the beginning of the story, and what they think about themselves.
This is where my favourite character creation sheet by E.A. Deverell comes in! It’s simple and quick, but it makes you think critically about your character, which is the important thing. I find that filling out this sheet gives me the perfect foundation to begin writing a character. Give it a look. I think you’ll be surprised at how brief it is!
And so now, I head back to paper and pen as I start developing Stel, the second main character in The Chosen Two. I hope I can do her justice!
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