The key to good story writing rests on creating a foundation of realistic characters and one of the best ways to creating these characters is to use what, for lack of a better phrase, I will call a character map. You could call it a character diagram or even a character sketch, it really doesn’t matter.
What it looks like is just a laundry list of character traits like such.
Doesn’t look very impressive does it? Well, it’s not if you don’t use it right. But, if you do, it can be a very powerful tool. Let’s see how.
Story Writing From Within
You see, everything in your life, my life, your character’s life is a reflection of who they really are inside and very simple things like name, age and birth date can speak volumes about who that character really is.
The name of a character says a lot about them even before the character appears in the story. The character may never appear in the story and all the reader sees is the character’s name and the reader will assume things based on the character’s name.
Don’t believe me? Try these on for size.
Breckenridge Van Beck
I can guarantee that you had some sort of assumption for each name. It could have been economic or ethnic, intellectual or sexual or any number of other things. You might have had strong assumptions or weak assumptions based on the name and your own background but you had them nonetheless.
This is because your name reflects the context from which you come. Your name was given to you by your parents and reflects their social, economic, ethnic, geographical, educational and any other position they might have in the world.
Good Story Writing Is All About Details
Birth dates are another often overlooked detail. Very frequently birth dates are meaningless. However, they may provide deep psychological insight into who the character is.
Let’s take the example of a character who is born on December 21st. Big deal, right?
Well, December 21st is the date of the winter solstice and, before some major calendar overhauls by the Catholic Church, was the original date of Christmas.
It was also the date of the Roman festival of Sol Invictus, the celebration of the unconquerable sun, because on this date the declining winter sun will sink no lower in the sky and begins rising once more.
What does all this mean?
That’s a great question and it all depends on the psychology of the character you want to portray.
Perhaps it is a character who was abused as a child and is clinically depressed and suffers from a victim’s mentality.
Over the course of the story you can portray this character sinking deeper and deeper into depression until, one day, the character will take no more and begins taking his or her life back and rising from the depths of depression like the unconquerable sun itself.
The point is that every outward aspect of a character speaks to something in the character’s internal psychology and, as a writer, it is your job to determine what that is and a character map is just the tool to help you do that. Click here for a complimentary coupon for a course on how to use a character map to Create Fictional Characters People Will Pay Money To Read.