Monday, March 5, 2012

Sanity Falls Character Creation

Meeting Alexander Blackwell

From his creation with pen and paper to his inception or dare we say conception. It helps to know how a character is created. I have drawn on my own experience as a writer and what I have been taught by reading books on character creation. 

How to create a character.

Its a little like creating a cake, in so far as we need certain ingredients make the character workable, likeable, or in some cases disliked.

For a cake you need certain ingredients in typical amounts or it doesn't work.

Characters are a little like that.

You need an idea, a notion a concept,

right from the start you probably know its gender and age, and what it does in its life.

Then you start to conjour up others things.

So lets take our leading character in Sanity Falls.

His name is

Alexander Blackwell

The very name chosen will start to mould his/her character. Norman Peaches or Desiree Cream does not conjure up the same image as Alexander Blackwell.

Forget about political correctness for now, you need to be firm with the character you are creating, Define it just as you blend the ingredients for the cake there are certain vital ingredient in the sponge mix and certain rules you must apply.

From a basic sponge you get a variety of cakes, mixes, colour it, flavour it, add other ingredients such as fruit.

Same for a character.
It needs a name, a defining line of what it is and who its going to be. Once you have the basic outlay it can be anything you wish.

So our character is 
Alexander Blackwell
what does he do?
Alex is a psychologist
he just is, it doesn't matter why for now, if I am making orange sponge cake I add orange essence.

I want a specific designated character here, a doctor, a nurse, a police officer. So Alex is a psychologist.
He is wealthy, he is married but he has no children, his wife is beautiful. She doesn't have to be but thats what we want her to be its our story.

How was he born?
Authors and writers, just get notions, concepts, ideas, bubble up inside them and suddenly a character is born. It might be the yellow blob like Homer Simpson, a square sponge, a disney character. Well ok most Disney stories are based around a fairy tale. Still the concept is the same, the idea the same.

Who is he emulated on?
Good question, he could be someone you met briefly on the train, a taxi driver, a doctor, a teacher. Authors are good at storing information about people they meet and pulling them out when they need them to help create a character. They are careful that they are not precisely like the person they have chosen to use, but have characteristics of that character and...
Many authors stick to the same concept and flavour over and over again, so the villain is always emulated on the hard nosed cruel mouthed teacher from your primary school, its wicked vileness escapes into your character time and time again, each character different but it contains the same ingredients.
Like our sponge cake.

What else is required to create the character.
Well he needs generalised characteristics to be human,  just like a bicycle needs gears. Your character requires, two eyes a nose, a mouth, if you make him a One eyed one footed monster who is green then you  have created a character but not the human being we where trying to create.

Nearly every character created by Walt Disneys art department has one thing in common, baby faces, faces that make the audience adore the character. Even if that eye is out of place or half closed, provided its a wide eye that big and the mouth is correct and the nose. People will respond even to Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Notice the villains are always weedy tall small eyed, thin faced, thin lipped villains.

Does he need a background
Yes but you can be brief about this. The briefer the better, easier for a change.
A woman standing on a bridge in the pouring rain in very little clothing gives you enough information that she is in trouble.
A man unshaven, smoking and drink his fifth glass of whisky, his leather jacket looking worse for wear, his head bowed slightly and his eyes red rimmed with tears, is not a happy person.
Fewer words are always best.

Alex is from a wealthy family and both his parents are psychologists. For now thats all you really need to know about Alexander Blackwell.

Image concept and specifics

Your mind has already conjured up an image of him, without any illustrations, you have an idea of him fixed in your brain. Will you be disappointed? We don't know because the description is vague so far the author has a lot to play with.

If we had said
Tom Rooster is four foot nothing, has green eyes, red hair and wears a green suit. We have now given you a very specific description of him.

But authors don't always give specifics, they give the bare minimum information to the reader, allowing the reader to conjure up who the character is to them.

When we get down to specifics thats where a persons image can become blurred with their reality. Bringing a character to life on the screen is very different from the one breathed onto a page in a book and etched on someones memory.

Thanks to costumes, make up and art departments we can almost have it all, the character in the book can be on the screen. This works in second life too, if the writer of Alexander Blackwell a game character wrote his story first, published a paper back novel. Everyone would know who he was, what he looked like.

With Second Life and computer graphics the game characters hit the screen first, they are not intended for a paper back novel. They have a purpose in life so to speak. Game Character one and two and three are created and put into the game.

Take Lara Croft, first she was a game, then she was a screen play written for a film and now she has a game system and two very good films.

We hope this helps to explain a little bit about game character creation rather than paperback novel creation. Not to say Alexander Blackwell could not be written into a book, but his sole purpose, his birth or inception were for a game.

We will be back with more about impression formation of characters next time.

By Rowanessque Whitewood.

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