I don’t like the idea of saying a character has this particular personality trait or that way of thinking. For me, that feels overly-simplistic. Sure, we can make those assumptions, but it takes seeing how people and characters act and react to situations that help us determine their character. This only marginally relates to “The Story,” but I came up with an idea to figure out your character’s/characters’s personality/personalities: An elevator pitch, if you will.
Spoilers?: Minor [a what-if scenario]
The elevator pitch is pitching the character into an elevator.
I was talking to someone about building out his character. He showed me a drawing he had done but wasn’t sure about the personality traits, so I explained my thoughts as I did above, and came up with this elevator pitch.
I asked him “what if we throw him into an elevator and see how he gets out?”
Based on his appearance, I surmised that he was intelligent enough to figure out that if the elevator was stuck, and the maintenance button didn’t respond, that he’d probably jump up into the elevator shaft to get out.
He told me that he was thinking his character would be trying to go down.
We brainstormed out that the character would probably severe the cable of the elevator, land inside the elevator, possibly walk out of the elevator, but collapse, and find himself in a hospital bed, victim of an accident.
He would quickly evade suspicion of having tried to do any tomfoolery.
I would almost say a simple premise like this could be an easy way to figure out character personality traits in almost any situation. Of course, the more realistic the setting, the less exciting the result.
John and Trishna would wait for help to arrive; nothing exciting there.
Most of the other characters I write about [it feels weird saying “my characters”] would do the same. I don’t really write action or horror stories, so this might work better for those sorts of scenarios.
How does your character get out of a stalled elevator?
It’s important noting that people don’t always act the same in every situation, but generally, people act predictably in most situations. If someone has acted honorably once, they’ll probably do so again.
What I would say, too, is that it’s OK to think of some character personality traits.
I’ve dug into Sammohini’s psychology enough to surmise some core personality traits, so I could predictably imagine, for example, that if she were stuck in an elevator, but had things to do, she’d probably forget she was there.
I’ve surmised her psychology through many short stories and a 60,000-word novel.
Now, that’s the long way of figuring out how a character ticks, whereas the elevator pitch is a shortcut, but what’s important is figuring out the situation from the character’s perspective rather than your own.
Let’s take Fairydust from Novel 01 as an example.
I completely randomly generated her name and her personality formed throughout the story based on the situations she was in. When I wrote her appearances, they were unique from my perspective and Sammohini’s.
That doesn’t mean Fairydust is a particularly great character or anything.
Just that she is well-defined enough to not be a proxy of me, which I think is an important part about building out characters. You don’t just want your characters to be “you but with X hair” or “you but with Y.”
The problem is, though, that we can’t write what we don’t know.
So, invariably, we write from the perspectives we understand, regardless of how intolerable we try to make these characters or how unrelatable to us we want them to be, but here’s where it can get interesting.
When Fairydust acted in ways independent of how I planned, that was cool.
When she lied and did manipulative things that I thought were plot incongruencies, but were just in fact part of her way of operating, I thought that was really fun to write, because I was channeling her personality.
I had either “found” or “built” out this character well enough.
I would say if a character doesn’t speak to you in that way, it’s fine to put them on the shelf. Maybe they weren’t meant to be your main character? John and Trishna have always been around and always inviting.
If a character doesn’t invite you into their psychology, it’s alright.
Sometimes they’re more guarded, but if they continue to be that way, why hold onto them? Ideas can flow throughout this constantly changing thing we call life. You can always return to the character years later.
That’s what I’m doing with John and Trishna with “The Story,” basically.
I know these two characters well, but I don’t have the writing ability to write “The Story,” as I haven’t had the ability to write Novel 02 and beyond yet, so they are characters I’ve shelved for decades now.
The difference would be I write about John and Trishna weekly.
Sometimes, these essays are more difficult to write than others, because lately, I’ve been thinking of aspects of their lives that are harder to write about. The scenes I’ve been imaging are less elevator pitch and more mundane.
How can I write that in a way that isn’t mundane to read… or write?
It’s not that I’m super excited about elevator pitches or action scenes of that sort. I know it’s easier to digest, and I’m no paragon when it comes to reading dry text. So I suppose I’d rather practice in an easier environment.
That’s where Sammohini comes in.
Her character has been easy for me to write because she is different enough from me to be unique yet similar enough to be relatable. I know certain aspects of her future but I’d like to see where else she goes.
Will she end up in an elevator in Novel 02?
If so, will it be with anyone more action-oriented than her?
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium.|
|Inspirations: Talking about character designing, then writing about that inspiration.|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.”|
|Written On: 2020 July 27 [2:03pm to 2:36pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 July 27 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|