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Lecture: Character Sketch: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in a creative writing class. Professor: Alright everybody, the topic for today is, well, we're gonna take a look at how to start creating the characters for the stories you're writing. One way of doing that is to come up with what's called "a character sketch", I don't mean a sketch like a drawing, I guess that's obvious. It's um ... it's a ... a sketch is a way of getting started on defining your characters' personalities. To begin, how do we create fictional characters? We don't just pull them from thin air, do we? I mean we don't create them out of nothing. We base them, consciously or unconsciously, we base them on real people, or we blend several people's traits, their attributes into one character. But when people think fiction, they may assume the characters come from the author's imagination. But the writer's imagination is influenced by ... by real people, could be anyone. So, pay attention to the people you meet: someone in class, at the gym, that guy who is always sitting in the corner at the coffee house, um ... your cousin, who's always getting into dangerous situations. We're pulling from reality, gathering bits and pieces of real people. You use these people, and the bits of behavior or characteristics as a starting point as you begin to sketch out your characters. Here is what you should think about doing first. When you begin to formulate a story, make a list of interesting people you know or have observed. Consider why they're unique or annoying. Then make notes about their unusual or dominant attributes. As you create fictional characters, you'll almost always combine characteristics from several different people on your list to form the identity and personality of just one character. Keeping this kind of character sketch can help you solidify your character's personality, so that it remains consistent throughout your story. You need to define your characters, know their personalities so that you can have them acting in ways that are predictable, consistent with their personalities. Get to know them like a friend. You know your friends well enough to know how they'll act in certain situations, right? Say you have three friends, their car runs out of gas on the highway. John gets upset. Mary remains calm. Teresa takes charge of handling the situation. And let's say, both John and Mary defer to her leadership. They call you to explain what happen. And when John tells you he got mad, you're not surprised, because he always gets frustrated when things go wrong. Then he tells you how Teresa took charge, calmed him down, assigned tasks for each person and got them on their way. Again, you're not surprised. It's exactly what you'd expect. Well, you need to know your characters, like you know your friends. If you know a lot about a person's character, it's easy to predict how they'll behave. So if your characters' personalities are well defined, it will be easy for you as the writer to portray them realistically ... er ... believably, in any given situation. While writing character sketches, do think about details. Ask yourself questions, even if you don't use the details in your story. Um ... what does each character like to eat, what setting does each prefer, the mountains, the city, what about educational background, their reactions to success or defeat. Write it all down. But, here I need to warn you about a possible pitfall. Don't make your character into a stereotype. Remember the reader needs to know how your character is different from other people who might fall in the same category. Maybe your character loves the mountains and has lived in a remote area for years. To make sure he is not a stereotype, ask yourself how he sees life differently from other people who live in that kind of setting. Be careful not to make him into the cliché of the "ragged mountain dweller". Okay, now, I'll throw out a little terminology. It's easy stuff. Major characters are sometimes called "round characters". Minor characters are sometimes called, well, just the opposite, "flat". A round character is fully developed; a flat character isn't. Character development is fairly limited. The flat character tends to serve mainly as a motivating factor. For instance, you introduce a flat character who has experienced some sort of defeat. And then your round, your main character who loves success and loves to show off, comes and boasts about succeeding and jokes about the flat character's defeat in front of others, humiliates the other guy. The flat character is introduced solely for the purpose of allowing the round character to show off.