Ever been stuck sorting out characters for your story? Especially secondary characters that you can’t put too much time into but which still need that realistic edge. Today I thought I’d share an ideas trick that might work for you. A card game.
That’s right. A card game. Alice in Wonderland style, slightly. Here’s how. Make a set of (say) 20 blank pieces of card or paper. Not too large. Write down a coherent list of names, characteristics, actions and so forth, one per card. Ssort the cards into topics, one pile per topic. Shuffle – not really necessary, but we’re playing cards here. Lay them out, face up and find the character names. Set them out in a row. Then add a physical description and one or more action cards beneath each. Mix them around a bit.
Now have a look at what you’ve come up with. Naturally a random fit like this will produce some pretty weird combinations. But it isn’t a ‘character generator’ The aim is to provoke – get you thinking.
Let’s say you have Roger the Shrubber, whose characteristic is ‘introverted and cautious’, but who gets an action ‘wild partying’. OK. Why? Can you think of a reason? Yes? Great. Write it down. No? OK, shuffle again. What now? Keep doing it. Add cards if ideas float in. See what comes up. Write down the new thoughts on a separate piece of paper if you need to.
This is a creation-provocation exercise – a start-point, not an end point. You won’t get final characters ouf of this, or even characters of any depth, particularly. But these may not be your main characters; these could be a secondary individual who needs some kind of feature to set them apart. Or maybe this exercise kicks up something brilliant that can turn into a major character. Certainly, with luck, the card-shuffle will get you thinking. It’s designed to create a framework – to provoke ideas, to be flexible along the way. Later, all that has to be fleshed out via donkey-work. But you have to start somewhere.
Do you have any character-creation systems you’d like to share?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012