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Creating Characters

Any creation is a god-like act, and creating characters is totally god-like. Most writers turn the act around. They perceive the character in a flash and then embark on a voyage of discovery, trying to figure out who and what this character is and what makes him/her act or react in certain ways. Perhaps this is going about the job backwards. Here’s how I start.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, I repair to my laboratory and begin to work on my golem. As I climb the stairs I search my mind and imagination. What kind of character(s) do I need for this story? Note that the story itself will dictate the character roles. In my primary characters list, I start with the protagonist.


Female? _____ Male? _____ Age? _____ Physical Description.

I wave my magic writer’s wand and there on the table before me is the character–a female of a certain age (28) and physical type. 5′ 9″ and stacked!

But all I have her is a character made flesh. A tabula rasa, a complete blank. I must now begin to construct a personality for this character, a psychological template. As always, I turn to the myths for inspiration. I have made her a her. But I see that I’ve called her a heroine to stress her femininity. What kind of heroine? Is she reluctant to accept the Call to Adventure? Eager? At first unwilling then willing? Zap! My wand descends on that pale forehead. Do I need a tragic heroine? Zap! Wait. No–not tragic. Unzap! She will be a dark heroine, a Shadow. Zap! Hmmm. What else? I remember that goddesses (as well as archetypes) can be imagined and then invoked. A touch of the wand and my heroine has an I.Q. of 160. She is Athena, and will never lose her head or heart or self-control. This is power, but I think–yes!–I will give her sexual power as well. And beauty. Zap!–Zap! In addition to Athena, she is also Aphrodite, the golden woman, sensual, graceful, passionate, her every move erotic.

I take stock. My heroine Rhea is 28, beautiful, very intelligent, stubborn and a control freak. She is a female corsair, a self-made woman, ruthless, extremely successful in business, likes sex. She leaves behind her a trail of broken men who have been so unwise as to fall in love with her.

Beautiful, smart, successful, wealthy. But alone. And does Rhea care? I tap my fingers on the keyboard. Sex in plenty, but love? And does she want it, even in her innermost heart? Oh, I know. I’ll splice in some Hera, Goddess of Marriage, and joy and motherhood. Half-zap! Rhea keeps her Hera goddess well hidden. But Hera will not be denied forever. Enter at last the HERO, more stereotype than archetype. Alpha male, harsh, domineering, he desires Rhea and means to have her. Hera blooms, Rhea submits; joy reigns. Happy ending. Yes, this is a romance novel.

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