Start Writing Fiction: Characters And Conflicts
Welcome to the fifth installment of the Start Writing Fiction series. In previous articles, we have looked at what fiction is and how we can get started. We learned how to develop a habit of writing. We now know the never-ending work of editing and revisions. And last, but not least, how we can build a story. Now we will learn how our characters are the driving force of our plots. Without them, the plot lies dead in the water. This week we will look at characters and conflict and how they help with furthering your plot.
“Character is plot; plot is character.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
You may have a plot idea in your head, but you need to get to know your characters and how they will drive the plot. One way of doing so is getting to know your characters pretty much how you get to know someone in real life.
You need not invite your characters to dinner and a movie. All you do is fill out a chart. The chart will guide you in bringing your characters to life. The worksheets will allow them to become relatable to the reader. Visit your journal and apply one (or more) of the following character profiles.
- Writers Write: How to Create a Character Profile
- Deviant Art: Big-Ass Character Sheet
- Writer’s Digest: Character Development Worksheets
- Queen Anne’s County Public Schools: Character Profile Worksheet
- The Writer’s Craft: Character Worksheet
- Deviant Art: Character Profile Form
- EpiGuide: Character Chart for Fiction Writers
Now you have brought your characters to life; it is now time to give them a dilemma or a battle. Creating such actions helps center the characters and drives the plot forward.
When creating your characters’ hurdles, you don’t have to develop big ones such as wars or murder. It can be a reign of lousy luck which leads to an adventure to find good luck, or to romance. Such milestones can add a foreshadowing effect to the story.
Difference Between Round Characters and Flat Characters
Round characters are three dimensional. They are complex people with different traits. They can surprise and convince their readers.
Flat characters are two dimensional. Think of them as the extras, those in the background. Flat characters add little to the story, but they need to be there to help set the scene.
In a story I am working on, Seven Gates of Hell, Candy is a round character. She adds to the story, and her actions move the plot from beginning to the end. She changes from a shy girl to a fighter. In a scene, Candy is sitting at a café and Gloria is her waitress. They have a small conversation, but Gloria is a flat character. Readers have no problem figuring out her role in the story. She is a waitress who knows Candy due to the café being the teenager’s after school hangout.
Many stereotypes are flat characters. To create a round character, you must look beyond the stereotype. Look deep within and bring out their contradictions. Make them unique.
Examples of stereotypes with a twist.
- A shy librarian who plays in a heavy metal rock band.
- A hard-nosed boss who volunteers at homeless shelters or dresses up as a clown and visits sick children.
- A neat freak at work is a hoarder at home with rats crawling all over the place.
- A ninety-year-old grandma who DJ’s on the weekends.
What other flat stereotypes can you think of that you can create a round character out of? Write a 300-500-word scene with the new complex character in the comment sections below.
Where To Find Fictional People
There are many methods for finding fictional characters. You can use one or mix them up; It is up to you.
- Ideal method—This method means you and those around you are not the inspiration for the characters, but your imagination is. You could use many resources such as informational books like psychology books, mythology books, or from other sources.
- Biographical method—You use those around you to create your characters. You can use family, friends, or the people you “spied on” during your people watching afternoons.
- Autobiographical Method—You use yourself to create your characters. You use your experiences.
“Because of this, you are bound, at least to some extent, to project yourself into the fictional characters you render by any other method. Many writers project themselves into all the characters they portray.” – Josip Novakovich
Pick one method below you are comfortable trying. Then pick one you feel least comfortable trying. Last, pick one you never tried before. Write a brief character sketch (300-500 words each) using third-person point of view and post it in the comments below. A side note, you will remain the sole owner of the copyright for any stories you post.
- The character is like you; they think like you, act like you and like the same things you like. Now add an external alteration. The character can be young, old, opposite sex, from a different planet or time-period.
- The character is like someone you observed during your people watching days or someone you know. Now add an external alteration. The character can be young, old, opposite sex, from a different planet or time-period.
- You or anyone else is not the inspiration for this character. Your imagination gives birth to the character. Have Fun.
- The character you develop is in all three methods mentioned above. You are blending yourself, someone you know/observed, and what you created by your imagination.
Feedback For The Writers Prompt:
When you read over the people’s character sketches make sure you start with a positive, then constructive criticism, and end it with something positive. Don’t use the words ‘I liked this’ or ‘I didn’t like that.’ You must respond with reasons why.