Iteni is a girl in my fiction series, Splattering Yet Endearing.
She is a short, blonde, quiet girl—at the start of the story anyways.
Now I’m a guy, lol. I will never understand exactly what it’s like to be a chick…. doesn’t mean I can’t try! But I’m sure many authors have struggled with creating a character who is very different from themselves. Being very different makes it harder for me to write—personal opinion.
Anyways, I often had to ask myself when I was forming Iteni’s character,
- Is this how a girl would really behave, or how a girl made up by a guy would behave?
- Is this trait consistent with her overall character?
- Is she too masculine?
- Is she too feminine?
- Is she behaving like a girl, or like a genderless, bland character with girl parts?
The process was tricky. There were times I felt like she was behaving in a clearly exaggerated, trope manner. Other times, her personality was so muted, it was like it didn’t even exist.
Looking back, I can see more of a clear developmental path for her character. I really had to make her full character/persona/personality on the fly.
To Start: I began with a few traits. Just particular things she would always do. From like the first 10 pages, she was already,
- Observant…possibly intelligent
- Not chatty with strangers
- Hostile to other girls, would hiss at other girls
The above are just simple traits. They are not enough to create a fully fleshed out character. But over time, as I added more traits, and simply exposed Iteni to more situations, her character slowly formed. For instance, she began to wear different clothing. Early on I knew she was a more energetic character. So naturally, she got casual and athletic clothes to suit her recurring activities and interests.
By the end of Part 2, I knew a lot more about Iteni than I did from page 10 of Part 1. I had the benefit that she talked more by then, lol, but also I just knew more about her personality and mentality. How exactly?
- I knew her favorite food.
- I knew what kind of TV she liked to watch.
- I knew her sense of humor.
- I knew like, at least 10 different pieces of clothing she had worn by then, so I knew her preferred clothing style.
- I knew what she disliked.
Much like how when you meet a stranger, you really don’t know their personality until you spend more time with the person and see them do different things and talk about different things. The point is, coming up with a character isn’t just creating 3 or 5 paragraphs of their whole personality. You still have to find a way to feed it to the reader, probably over time. Maybe good writers know their characters on page 1. I definitely learned more and more about Iteni as I threw her into scene after scene. I tossed myself into online searches about girl clothing, behavior, dating etc. The research alone didn’t create the character. It would have been way too robotic and not lifelike. Instead, looking things up just helped me be knowledgeable and stay on track with developing a realistic, high quality girl character.
Over time, I slowly learned, thought about, and stacked different small elements together to compose her character. It took time, for sure. I would say, 6 months at least. But instead of just having—a quiet, kinda smart, loner blonde girl—I added the following over time to enhance her character:
Gestures, facial expressions, a specific sense of humor, specific hobbies, body language, favorite foods, specific strengths and weaknesses.
Also, I had more traits than the 4 or so I had for her on page 10. I guess my point is, all these little things matter. The clothing says something about the character to the reader. Same for their sense of humor. Same for their hobbies. Same for their favorite foods. The sum of all these small parts, over time, is a developed character, with a full on routine and list of likes and dislikes.
I chuckle at some of Iteni’s traits now. Initially, some of her traits sounded preposterous, especially for a chick like her to have. But over time, those awkward traits became core parts of her personality. Things that defined her and made her memorable and unique in the book’s world and compared to other female characters. I mean, a character has to feel a little weird. If they don’t, they come off as a trope or copycat I imagine.
Hope this helps and hope you enjoyed this post!