Creating Characters Not Like You

Every Monday, writers can now look forward to starting their writing week right with an inspirational writing exercise! We’re starting with something everyone is familiar with–character building. 🙂

1)     One problem many writers encounter is how to create characters that are significantly different from themselves.  Sure, the character may be a nineteenth century male archeologist excavating in Egypt, and the author a hometown girl who has never left the state she was born in, but does that character react like its creator when angry?  Frustrated?  Joyous?  Successful?  An exercise I’ve found helpful is to consider a specific situation or problem in my own life, write briefly about how I handled it, and then put my character in the same situation and consider how he or she would handle it, concentrating on the differences between us…and making sure there are some!   I often discover qualities and emotions I didn’t realize my character possessed doing this exercise. 


For example, I have a character who is an adolescent girl confronted with a very strange young man who, while not violent or overtly threatening, is either from another dimension or mentally disturbed.  As a fifteen year old in a similar situation, I was very polite, very shy, and very scared: how do I get out of here as quickly as possible without hurting anybody’s feelings?  My character is also scared, but feeling even slightly threatened leaves her confrontational and unconcerned with being polite, or with getting the heck out of there.  She is, for the moment, ready to stay and make her points clearly. 

When and how do you and your character react differently? How would your own character react?

2 thoughts to “Creating Characters Not Like You”

  1. I also find it useful to run different characters through the same scenario, to make sure my FMCs don’t have the same personality, for example.

    I have two very submissive FMCs. Let’s see… Upon encountering a strange man who seems to be mentally disturbed…
    • #1 would scurry away, unless there’s someone she trusts nearby—in which case, she’d probably follow that trusted friend’s instructions.
    • #2 would humor the guy, unless he seemed threatening or didn’t respect her personal space—in which case, she’d likely kill or maim him.

  2. I find letting my characters blog really helps. It gives each character a unique voice. I had them blog about politics one day and they all came back with different answers, even though they favoured the same political party. It was amazing that people who share the same vote do so for different reasons. One even became a little angry–the character I expected to yawn about politics.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble LOL. I find what scares me doesn’t necessarly scare a character. Such as your question about a fifteen year old girl encountering a creepy guy. Great post. I really enjoy reading the writing tips.

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