Writing a story can be quite hard. First of all, you have to think what kind of story you want to tell and then you have to think a whole lot! My stories usually contain a plethora of characters and I try to keep records of all of them in sheets and documents. It cost me quite some time to find a method that works for me, to keep things relatively simple. But coming up with new characters can be quite daunting. My method for creating characters is a bit similar to how they are created in most RPGs though.
Movies and books
Writing a book is like making a movie. You’ll create a whole lot of content, but only a small portion of it ends up in the final product. Not because it’s unusable, but because I keep background information stored in my archives and most of the details of all characters just aren’t really necessary to be written down in the book.
Movies their biggest restriction is time. Although their duration has increased over the decades, most of the time the director will only have 2, or maybe 3 hours to tell their story. Any unnecessary scenes get cut out and sometime become available later as “deleted scenes” or they’re added to extended versions of the movie, or director’s cuts. When writing a book you have less restrictions, but you still have to watch out for pitfalls like infodumps. Something that I sometimes find hard to avoid when I’m excited about a new spaceship or character.
RPGs and characters
What makes it hard for me to introduce a new character is that I don’t just have to introduce them into the story, I also have to get to know them. This is a bit different per type of character, of course. Some soldiers or barmen can stay anonymous and don’t really need a name. But when adding a character that is going to be in multiple scenes, and who is going to have quite a bit of dialogue, you really need to pay attention to who that character is. This takes time and energy.
Creating characters is something I do in a similar way most RPGs do (including the old skool pen & paper ones). First I determine the race, gender and other characteristics. Really basic stuff that is quite easy to pen down. But then comes the hardest part of them all: Coming up with a name! I can spend hours thinking of the perfect name for a character.
After creating the character sheet I can start working on that person’s background story. Where does this character come from and what events has shaped him or her. Characters that are of less importance don’t need an extensive background, of course, so you don’t have to write down a full 10-page report, but for the protagonists and antagonists, you’ll definitely need to do some thinking and writing!
The end result is a character that should feel like they could truly be alive and as a writer it is always my fond hope that I succeeded in bringing every single one of my characters to life. They shouldn’t even be considered characters, but persons from that point onward!
I hope this advice was of any help! Please let me know if you’re struggling with writing, or if you want to share your method for coming up with new characters!