At creating point- this is the same character- Tod, and all I can think about for his personality is that he wants a good relationship with his mom and he is kind of a nerd
Then you really should check posts I already wrote here. They are
III. Inconsistent Characters
IV. Character Flaws
Basically, you just need a character questionnaire. The link on the one I posted contains important questions, and this will be probably enough to create a very consistent and developed character. After you can also check Character Flaws post, as an addition to the questionnaire. Questionnaires are time-consuming, but it will save you time in the future and will help to create a more solid plot too.
Thanks, I have read your posts- but I still wasn’t sure how to do it.
okay, so I have one post I haven’t published, where I cover some questions from the questionnaire. Maybe it will help you. Not all questions, but it could give you an idea on how to fill it. Just copy questions into some doc file, and start thinking and writing. Hold on, I’ll post it.
Thanks so much for this- your tips are amazing!
So me and @Cheyara_M are writing a colab story, so this is the part of the process we went through.
We are on the first questionnaire, and it took days to get over with this one. I guess cause it’s about the MC, but anyway.
It is a second time I do this thing, so I kinda forgot, so now I have a moment to appreciate this process, and share it with you.
First of all, when we started, we had a very subtle idea about the plot, and characters.
At this point, we are almost done with MC questionnaire and…
WHOLE PLOT AND CHARACTERS CHANGED DRASTICALLY . I mean it. We got the main plot changed and formed, roughly, but still. Plus a lot of minor plotlines are developed.
I’ll go through with questions and comment on how this question can help, why it’s important, in regards to our story.
I know, what’s so special about the name? I see dozens of these annoying threads, where people ask for names. First of all, heard of Google?
Now we actually decided to give more to the name and made the MC Spanish suddenly. So we were searching for Spanish cute names and surnames. So you get what we have here? We made some part of the backstory while picking a name, plus we formed her look.
In case you are curious, check out this cutie <3
Yep, at this point, we decided on what MC’s occupation is. Just be sure to correlate your chosen age/occupation/country. Some countries have a difference in finishing school/college time. Keep it real.
General physical description
Well, it was partially formed at the name tab, but still. Think about how her body is for example. 'Course you can’t choose body type in Episode yet, but you have Narrator and other character’s thoughts about this to point. Maybe your character is skinny, or curvy. Don’t leave it out.
Hometown + Type of home/ neighborhood
Here we formed almost the whole backstory of her family , and also a bit of her family background, how they got here. Also, added some traits , that were affected by the neighborhood type. For example our character whole her life was at the dominantly black district, kinda poor and with the high crime rate. Don’t think I am being racist here, as we chose the city where MC lives, and I just scrolled through most poor districts and found one. The place is real.
Yep. Don’t have to say why it’s important.
Is your character single/dating/hooking up/married? We also thought a bit about her previous love relationships, that helped us forming MC and reason her traits. Here we create more characters as well.
Friends. Who are they? How did they meet? What bonds them? Like really bonds, their history and traits, that make them a good match as friends. It is important to do, so that you can show their chemistry. Maybe this friend/friends is/are toxic and MC doesn’t notice. Think what fits your story best, and will help to move the plot forward.
Family background (parents, previous marriages, etc.):
Who is present in MC’s family? Divorced, or maybe mother/father left the family/died? Brothers/sisters/aunts? Think about what the relationships in the family are?
Other close relationships
Maybe MC is helping some old granny with her chores? Or maybe gives a few dollars to a homeless guy on the street every day and chats with him? Small details matter, and allow you to show MC (and other characters) personalities.
Relationship with men/women
This is very important. Mostly we act a bit/a lot different with men and women. It should be reasoned tho. Maybe your female character dislikes other women and is quite hostile to them because her ex-best-friend stole her boyfriend? Thinkthinkthink and reason.
OK, maybe MC is a student. If MC has a job. What kind of? Why she/he chose this one? Does he/she enjoy it? Is he/she good at it? Do your research on the chosen job, to portray it realistically I’m so fucking sick of seeing writers putting any “cool and edgy” job for MC and then just ignoring everything this job is about -_-
Here I can only advise. Pick some specific dressing style. Don’t just combine a lot of clothes, so that different readers will have something they will like. Dressing style also reflects your personality.
Religion + Attitude to religion
Maybe MC is a follower of some specific religion. Maybe not, but still believes, or just doesn’t believe. Maybe doesn’t believe, but forced to fake religiosity? Just don’t go with something you have no idea about. If you don’t know much about religion you want to incorporate - ask people here, or Google.
What your MC loves doing? Maybe she/he watches reality shows after coming home from work? Or does some early morning’s runs? This will affect MC daily routine. And it is also important, cause I see a real lot how writers don’t put anything other than school/job and partying, and create blank dull characters.
Holaaaaaa, you rang my dear…
Oh bloody questionnaire was a nightmare… torturously long. But really good overall.
Oh yeah. I made full questionnaires for the PH for like 5 characters and I was dying xD
btw @WritingWithStars for secondary characters I use shorter Q’s, just gotta pick the right questions u need.
Thank you again for this! I am already starting to his Tod as an actual person!
I’m glad xD
Feel free to ask for other type of help.
“Every villain is the hero in their own mind.”
Tom Hiddleston of his character, Loki.
Now note, that in this post I won’t include psycho/socio types. Here I wanna talk about completely sane villains.
I tended to have problems with writing, or even picturing a villain in my head, maybe because I just couldn’t relate. Most of us want to be heroes, right? We can easily find the motivation and qualities to ground the hero. It is not so easy with the villain.
The things you need to define for your villain, in order to create one are:
And it’s that thing, where it is easy to fall into cliche motivations. Your villain might commit evil deeds to gain power, or get revenge. But who says you should go down this easy lane? I think in order to find your own kind of evil motivation, that will reflect you, as a writer, and also make the villain more appealing to the writer himself is to take his place .
What you should understand is that regardless of how good you feel you are, all of us can be villains or evil from time to time . We all have these evil urges depending on the situation, or event or other things that are happening to us on a daily basis. Your colleague bashed you in front of your boss, and you shyly smiled, avoiding confrontation, while picturing how you strangle her to death. Not so dramatic, but I can bet it has happened to you at some point. The difference between you and the villain you want to create is that the villain won’t turn to the social norms, or empathy, or conscience. Just imagine what would you do, if your moral boundaries would lift? You won’t feel the guilt or care about other conviction. Your lack of morals or some twisted understanding will let you do these things, that you can only do in your imagination.
I’m not telling you to become mean and nasty, but to get into your dark side long enough to know what makes a good villain. Giving your villain a motivation will make him more than a cardboard cutout.
There have been countless studies where people have been asked if they’d commit crimes if they were guaranteed to get away with them, and the majority always say ‘yes’, whether the crime is something relatively harmless, like the theft of a chocolate bar, or something abhorrent, like murder. If there were no consequences, and we could gain something, we too might easily turn to the dark side. Think about it.
The thing you should keep in mind, that villains don’t usually think that they are evil. They think they are different, maybe that they understand more than average people. He/she is convinced that he/she is a good guy. Remember Tanos? He is convinced that he is doing the best for the world and that the world just doesn’t understand him. Hell, let’s take a look at the real-life villains, like Hitler. He was sure he is doing the right thing. So the villain must have reasoning within himself, why he thinks these actions he does are justified, although not accepted by society.
What made him this way? Why his way of thinking is different than of average person?
Villains are people to whom terrible things have happened. Maybe when they were kids, maybe in adolescence, or later. At some point, rather than learning and overcoming something, their stopped developing empathy, or understanding or other qualities. On the outside, they may have many, if not most, of the same attractive qualities of your hero, like strength, or cleverness, maybe humor. But just under the surface, there are some qualities, that you can access in yourself only if you allow yourself to. Give in into temptation kind of thing
Now there are different kinds of villains. The spoiled high-school girl might be as evil as some superhuman in comic books. How far each of them can actually go, in order to achieve their goals? Usually, the more power you have, the fewer boundaries you have. Can he/she kill? Steal? Rape? Even villains have some things, that they won’t do, unless under heavy circumstances, and these boundaries sure may disappear in the story progress. Make this codex for your villain, define what would make him/her break it.
Now your villain might be plain scary and horrifying. But why not make the reader more conflicted and emotional, by giving the villain likable traits? Maybe he is funny? Or loves animals? Or cares for his/her sick mother? His history might contain some facts, that may make us feel sorry for the villain, but why not grant him with something, that will make us like him. Love/hate relationship between the reader and the villain are the best.
Maybe you don’t want to make your villain too likable? Maybe you want to create him/her really scary.
You can make your villain more interesting and frightening by avoiding cliches. Evil is creepier when it’s found in unexpected places and shapes.
How do you feel about Harry Potter’s Voldemort? The main villain, with creepy appearance and a lot of evil shit done in past and present. I dunno about you, but he wasn’t that scary. You know he is evil, and that he can kill, and torture, but you’re not really afraid of him.
And then there’s professor Dolores Umbridge. Personally, I found my emotions way more strong towards her, because she is something more real, something that can happen in real life, and something we sometimes can’t fight, due to subordination principle. She is a cruel, sadistic woman with a sugary voice and freaky pink outfits, and an office decorated with pictures of fluffy kittens. While her resemblance with real life was very frightening and causing strong negative emotions, her contradictory exterior made her very memorable.
The villain must be worthy of your protagonist.
What’s the point in creating a villain that doesn’t match your hero? The powerful villain will make your hero shine even more while giving them both a kick in character developing.
The reader must like if not the villain himself but at least watching him in action
He must be exciting, captivating, and create contrast in his and hero’s actions.
Avoid creating completely evil villains .
This concept of pure evil works of course in horror/monster stories, definitely not in drama, or fantasy.
The villain should sometimes be kind.
Because reader must like the villain in some point, and also because giving the villain humanly moments will make him more realistic. Even Voldemort expressed affection towards Nagini
Darth Vader is an all time classic >.< for a very good reason.
Personally I’m particularly partial to some more recent villains like Eric Killmonger from Black Panther or Thanos. Especially Thanos.
I love villain writing and designing, it’s so much fun
Never been a fan of Darth Vader xD He’s too grumpy.
Love Marvel’s Loki.
I guess my all time favorite is Killgrave from Jess Jones. I dunno why, but his cruelty is entertaining.
Darth Vader was at his best in Empire Strikes Back to be fair, but he is very grumpy xD
I liked Killgrave too, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the Netflix marvel shows. It’s hard to not like David Tennant, but he tried his damnest. And obviously, yeah, Loki rules >.<
Okay, honestly, this is EXTREMELY helpful. I wish I had this when I first started writing. But it gives me just as much help now, so thank you!
Give a voice to your character
Imagine walking on the street, and asking for directions. Ask 5 or 10 different people, and you will get a different answer every time, maybe not in terms of reply content, but in a way, it’s told.
Even the “I don’t know,” answers will probably be different, even in a bit,
“No idea, man.”
“Get a map, moron.”
So the question is how does your character talk? Your speech is affected by various things:
Your location - maybe your character is originally from France? Or the UK? Or some other part of your country, or state, where some kind of accent is used.
I have a couple of characters in my story that came from other countries, or culture. To recreate their accent, I just look on the Internet about their speech specifics, some catchphrases, words etc.
- Educational level - now, here I don’t mean just what kind of education your character has. Your character might’ve read a lot of books all his/her life, and this affects your speech maturity a lot. So think about it - what kind of education your character has, was he/she a bright student (cause the fact you finished uni, doesn’t mean your speech is well rounded), does he/she read books, or maybe watch Kardashians?
Age - like, is your character, like, a total teenager, or maybe a senior, who’s using a lot of anachronism words.
- Personality - is your character nervous, cold, flirty or simply rude?
Your character’s relationship with the person she’s speaking with
No one speaks to their boss as they speak to their husband or wife etc.
- Your character’s attitude toward the conversation topic . Maybe he/she is very passionate about the subject Like @NelidaU about Texas, or maybe they don’t want to talk about the subject at all and will try to tune it down.
- Mood - maybe your character is pissed, or tired or very happy.
All these things simultaneously affect your speech, so always think about them and analyze before writing dialogues.
Seems like a lot to take into account? There are certain ways to make it less complicated:
- First of all get in the habit of listening to how people talk . Just take a look around and take notes on how everyone’s way of speaking is different. This might give you some ideas on how to make your own characters speak.
- Get to know your characters well. And here we go again to the fact that you NEED to write character questionnaires.
- Once you have a clear vision of your characters - play out their conversations in your head. This is a kind of practice. Just put your characters in some kind of situation in your head and play the dialogue.
- Clean it up. Good dialogue is not always the same as the way people really speak. Repeat that a couple of times and change if necessary.
Now some things I noticed in reviewed stories, that make a bad dialogue.
A lot of unnecessary details
In real life, we talk about a lot of unnecessary crap, but we are more invested since it is our life. It works much more different in stories, and especially in Episode stories. If your dialogue doesn’t contain important information or something that shows the essence of the character - you don’t need it.
Dialogue shouldn’t be just for the sake of dialogue itself. It must show character personality, attitude towards others.
Amy Schumer syndrome
At least that’s how I call it. When authors try to make their dialogues funny and witty and forget that they’re writing a story, not a stand-up monologue. It’s fine to put a couple of jokes into dialogue, but when you make a complete dialogue made from jokes and “witty” comebacks only - it’s just doesn’t work. And it’s a legit thing, I’ve seen it in a way too many stories.
By this, I mean dialogues, that seem to have zero personalization in them. Characters just say very common phrases, that doesn’t show any character trait.
For example, you can answer differently on a question “Do you like tea?”
“No, I don’t.” or “I’m indifferent to tea really, though I sometimes have it to be sociable.”
It’s fine to keep short occasionally, but when it’s too often, or even always - the whole story gets kinda dull and boring. Little details matter.
Cut dialogue in the right moment
Now let’s check this example. How we tend to have dialogues in real life:
SHE: “Um, my car broke down and I left it on my work’s parking lot.”
HE: “I’ll take care of it.”
SHE: “You will? Great.”
HE: “Yeah, well, I’ll try.”
SHE: “Okay, great, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.”
HE: “Anyway, I should get back to making dinner.”
SHE: “Okay, then, talk to you later. And thanks again for the help.”
HE: “That’s nothing. All right. Got to go.”
SHE: “See you.”
HE: “Right, on Saturday.”
SHE: “That’s right. We’ll be there at six.”
HE: “Okay, see you then.”
If you do it this way, the reader is likely to stop reading, if he’s still awake. Learn to cut short, while grabbing the essence of dialogue.
It makes sense to write dialogues/monologues in case you want:
To let the reader hear your character’s thoughts - basically, monologue.
I feel like this thing is kinda abused in many Episode stories, and used a lot by some lazy authors, that prefer to write a 200-word essay instead of building a scene/flashback/memory using visuals. No need to show every possible thought. Write ones that show us character’s personality, or maybe a sense of humor on some occasions.
When a conversation is a key event in the story . Basically, if your characters are chatting about the weather while they’re sitting in the cafe, that might just be background. But if your story’s about a teenager pregnant by bad boy vampire gang leader, the conversation where the guy proposes marriage/abort is probably a critical event that will change the direction of the story and must be present.
- As background, to set a scene - in tiny quantities. These dialogues might be a preparation for a more important part of the dialogue. Or. They could lack in the subject while showing important emotions. Like ex-lovers meeting for the first time in 5 years, and being really awkward and having a meaningless convo.
In other cases, it is best to just sum it up with narration.
“Hey, is that your mother friend’s cousin Peter, who dropped out of college to become a porn movie director, causing your father to have a stroke and diabetes?”
“Like, I was, you know. Like. Right. Okay, well. Um. What’s that? Right. Anyway.”
Putting YOUR words in your character’s mouth
“My mom called me a hoe because I have a sugar daddy, which made me cry because I’m an independent woman and still the victim of gender stereotypes.”
Hope you don’t need any explanation why these approaches suck but feel free to ask.
Give each of your characters a different way of speaking
Play out possible dialogues taking into account your character personality as part of the practice.
Know when to use dialogue
If it’s an important conversation, your readers will want to read it for themselves.
Know when to cut it
If a character talks for an hour about how his phone broke down, you can’t include the whole speech in your story. Instead, you can summarize it really short, without boring your reader.
Feel free to mix dialogue and summary
You can mix a few lines of monologue into a conversation to give readers the insight into your character’s thoughts. Just don’t put too many monologue lines, and make sure visuals stay at least a tiny bit dynamic, not just 2 characters standing in idle animations.
Use animations .
Often, people don’t express what’s on their mind directly. Instead, they hint at it in other ways. If a guy is attracted to some girl, he might not come out and say to her, “I like you” Instead, he might become shy and awkward around her. The best dialogue often has two levels, what characters are saying on the surface, and what they really mean.
Pauses in a conversation can be as expressive as what is said out loud. You don’t talk non-stop yourself. We think about what other people say, before saying something (mostly). During a pause, you can show the characters’ body language (aka animation) or what’s happening around them.
Trim the unnecessary
Real-life conversation contains a lot of polite filler, false starts, and repetition. If you include all of this in your written dialogue, it can get boring. Instead, you can include just enough to give the realistic dialogue, then cut the rest.
Don’t pile on distracting dialogue tags
Dialogue tags such as, “he whined,” “she commanded,” or “he queried”. This is not a book or Wattpad story. It’s Episode. We have animations for this stuff. And yes, I totally saw it being used in some stories.
Dialogue is special, because it doesn’t have to be written perfectly all the time. As people don’t always speak perfectly in their language, they interject, they speak in fragments, DON’T BE too obsessed about making sure the dialogue is perfect English because it feels less natural sometimes.
For an example, “Time to make breakfast,” is technically a fragment, but totally normal for someone to say right? It is missing a verb, though. In perfect English, this should be, “It is time to make breakfast.” Depending on the character, they might always talk in perfect English like this, so it really also comes down to the fact that YOU HAVE TO KNOW THE CHARACTER YOU’RE WRITING FOR!
In order to help you figure out if your dialogue is good, a good thing to do (albeit maybe embarrassing sometimes LOL), say the dialogue out loud and see how it sounds to you. If it don’t sound right, make it right.
However, if you are a’narratin’, you better watch ya dang grammar! >.>
So first of all, what is the story plot?
A story’s plot is what happens in the story and the order it happens in.
The essence of the story is that something has to happen, something has to change. Something goes from some kind of change to its escalation, then climax moment and resolving the situation.
This change could be:
A physical event . Start - MC is arrested for a murder, that he/she didn’t commit. The end - the real killer is found and MC is acquitted. Example: “Seven” movie.
- A decision . Start - MC is forced into arranged marriage. The end - MC decides to leave town with her family’s gardener. Example: “The Invention of Lies” movie
- A change in a relationship . Start - MC hates the guy/girl. The end - MC falls in love with him/her. Example: “Friends with Benefits” movie.
- A change in a person. Start - MC has some deep psychological problems and struggles with them. The end - MC goes nuts and blows up the small suburban town before riding into the sunset. Example: “Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie.
- A change in the reader’s understanding of a situation. A bit like the first example with the false accusation, but the difference is that in the beginning reader doesn’t know it, but only finds out the truth at the story end. Example: “Crimson Peak” movie… Maybe?
- This change might be as well the realization that nothing will ever change. MC has some kind of dream, that she is trying to achieve through the story with shifty success, and in the end, she realizes that she failed and can’t change anything. Example: “Requiem For a Dream” movie.
Basically, the plot is the road that leads from some kind of conflict to its solution or realization of lack of solution/giving up.
OK. So I gotta say, even real life would suck if it was just happy.
A small moment of mushy philosophy. Crap, that happens to us makes happy moments more exciting, more meaningful and memorable. Constant happiness would bore us to death. Just as much as we need a tiny, or a whole tablespoon of crap in our lives, we need it in stories, and movies and games. Happiness that comes without struggle is just a coincidence. It gains some meaning when you have to fight for it, overcome something. Same applies to stories.
No one wants to read stories about people just being happy. Happiness doesn’t develop persons, it doesn’t change them. And we want to see changes, even bad ones.
Why am I saying it? Well, I’m sure some of you, or I’d say the biggest part, at some point was reading a story, and it was great, and had a lot of drama, and the conflict is solved, and MC and her friends/family are happy… And yet they won’t finish the story. It gets boring quite fast. So yeah, I kinda get big authors, who are milking this whole thing and want to drag the story as long as they can. But there’s gotta be closure when the plot came to conclusion. I can’t even count how many stories I have dropped when this kind of things happened, and I gotta tell you, I don’t bother to check these author’s stories anymore. Know when to stop.
The most logical thing is to start with your character.
Now there are a couple of ways to go from. Think about:
- What’s something MC really wants? What difficulties might get in the way? In these difficulties, you might find this conflict. Example: “The Black Swan” movie
- What would force MC to do something he or she is really uncomfortable with? Something he or she doesn’t feel capable of doing? Create this situation, and you’ve got a conflict. Example: “Buffy TVS” TV series
- There might as well be some external situation, that is escalating without MC affecting it, but this external situation will directly affect MC and will force him/her to act, to change for better or worse. Example: “Hunger Games” movies.
OK. So you’ve figured the story plot, and you created different interesting characters with the help of questionnaires . Now what?
Here’s the simplest way to build the plot structure:
- The reader gets to know your characters and to understand the essence of the conflict. And the thing in this step is to show it, not just tell it like many authors love to do. To explain this. You can say that character is badass in your narration. But without showing it, these are just dry words and a very lazy approach, that won’t build an emotional connection between the reader and MC. Take some time to show what the character/characters are all about. Show how this conflict affects MC and other characters. What this conflict brings out in them.
- Now, you have to build up the conflict to a crisis point, where things just can’t continue the way they are. This is the climax point . Something has to change. Maybe MC itself has to change, maybe he/she have to make a crucial decision to solve some major external situation. I’m gonna go with my love BTVS to show examples . If we are talking about the first season - when Buffy finds out she is destined to die. This is the climax, that requires some kind of decision. Is she gonna try to kill the Master anyway, or quit the whole slayer thing? Or 5th season, where Dawn is captured by Glory, and something is gotta be done to save her and the world.
- The story’s resolution. And it all depends on how the climax played out. Everything character did, every change he/she got through, every sacrifice is leading to this point.
Before you even start first lines in your stories you have to go through these points and write them down. This way you won’t get stuck with the plot , you will avoid many possible plot holes, and this will help you to build better minor plot lines, that will complement the major plot.
I won’t focus much on them this time, just a brief comment.
In my opinion, you have to have some minor plot lines along the major one, they can definitely make the whole story much more enjoyable. Also, more, different minor plot lines will help you to capture a wider audience.
Your plot is about some major political conflict? Or maybe apocalypse? This will grab the attention of one small reader part. Add romance! Not just some happy sloppy romance, but some kind of conflict revolving around romance, that will add to MC misery, will help to develop her/him more, that will bring some qualities in him/her that will help to deal with the major conflict. There might be family drama . There might be also the betrayal of a friend , or sickness that will force MC to act differently. These minor conflicts will help you to add depth to your characters. No one says that the conflict have to be about MC. Some minor plot lines might be based on secondary characters, that will somehow affect MC.
There are so many possibilities. But you have to write it all down, and see if these minor plot lines are compatible with the major conflict , if they won’t contradict it, if they will help you to move character towards your desirable climax and end of the story in a most realistic way.
And remember that you don’t have to drag minor plot lines until the very end of the story. You can resolve them in the middle of the story, or at any other point.
I agree with this for sure! I’d like to add that smaller plot lines make the world feel a lot bigger, too! Especially if they involve other characters than the MC
That’s very true.
I’m glad that even though you got banned from Episode you are still helping us here!