It’s Character Generation Time!

9

May 9, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue

character gen

Since I am currently letting Murphy’s First Law incubate for a couple of weeks before I hit revisions, I’ve decided to put some actual effort into another book idea I had back in February. This idea is set in the same urban fantasy cosmology of MFL, but it is a one-off. However, there will eventually be some cross-over between the characters of the new book and MFL’s characters.

Since this book has a specific purpose in the Murphy cosmology, I’m having to do quite a bit more plotting and prep work before writing than I generally can tolerate without going insane. So, I find new and interesting ways to entertain myself.

Kira’s Minor Character Generation Process:

Step 1: Summon Husband. (Darling, what would you do for a Klondike bar?)

Step 2: Tell Husband what he must do to earn his reward. (Make me a new character. This character is the second in command of a Werewolf Pack. Annnnd go!)

Step 3: Listen, nod, tell Husband he’s a genius (because he is).

Step 4: Take roughly 1/3 of what Husband suggested and mold my own version of it. (Oh, and don’t forget to reward Husband with the promised frosty treat.)

This process routinely produces amazing results. When I told him I needed a comic relief character for MFL he immediately replied, “You need a talking squirrel,” and Oliver was born.

Unfortunately for me, the Husband’s bouts of creative inspiration do not always coincide with my need for new characters. So, I have come up with an alternative method for spurring my own creativity.

Ok, I didn’t come up with it. More like found it. Er… them. Whatever.

The Alternate Process: Generators!

There are tons of random generator tools online you can use as a springboard to character awesomeness. First, here are a few general sites to play with:

Character Generator on Archetype: This is about as basic as it gets. Randomly generates a gender, cardinal personality trait, greatest weakness, and prized possession.

Generators on Seventh Sanctum: This website has a boatload of generators, which is very handy for those of us writing in fantasy or sci-fi. You can generate a basic character or play around with any of their generators ranging from the practical (General Character Generator, Magical Girl Generator, and Mood Generator) to the fun and absurd (Evil Animal Minions, the Grimoire of Questionable Spells, and the Fangirl Fantasy Generator.)

We now interrupt this blog for Kira to daydream about the Fangirl Fantasy generated for her: “The social mage. His luminous eyes are like two drops of wine. His vermillion hair is wild and untamed. His clothes are bizarre, and he has a thing for dusters and large belts with large buckles.”)

Annnnnd we’re back.

Generators on Springhole.net: Another site with a plethora of generators to choose from. This site is a wee bit more practical than Seventh Sanctum and includes the Flawsify button to generate character flaws, the Villify button to generate a Big Bad, and the Dress Me button to generate a random outfit.

Alright, now that we have our tools prepared. Let’s see what we can come up with for that theoretical Werewolf Pack second-in-command-type person.

My New Character:

From the Archetype Character Generator: “Your character is female. One of your character’s cardinal traits is the need to be around other people. The character’s greatest weakness is that she is easily bored. The character’s most prized possession is a hand-carved figurine.”

Her signature fighting move: Hidden Monster’s Dance of Pain

Her mixed drink of choice: Cosmic Sunset Snare

Her Deep Dark Secret: She loves a children’s television series.

Her weapon: Crazed Masters’ Longsword of Cursing

Her outfit: A pink tanktop, a pair of light green jeans, and a pair of shoes. Her accessories include a bowtie, a crown, and a pair of stud earrings.

Monty PythonWhat? You don’t like the silliness of the patented Kira Character Creation Process? Oh, that’s right. Writing is serious business and character creation is far too important to be left in the whims of some ridiculous generators from the interwebs.

Fine, I will concede that point when creating the main characters of a story. But for minor characters and supporting cast? Screw it. Let’s get crazy! Honestly, I’m kind of liking the bizarre Werewolf my manic button clicking produced. The truly terrible outfit concocted for her just might work for a wacky birthday party celebration.

I need this silliness. The thing I hate most about writing is planning a new story. On one hand it’s very exciting, on the other hand there are so many details to work out. I can only handle a focused effort on plotting for about an hour before my brain turns to annoyed mush. It just sucks all the creativity out of me.

Playing around with generators helps me get my mojo back when I get bogged down with early plotting. It helps keep me motivated until I have enough of the details worked out that I actually can sit down and get to the real writing.

My poorly dressed Werewolf wielding the Crazed Masters’ Longsword of Cursing and Sadness will probably not make it into the book as she is here, but I think I can mold this character into something useable. Even better, I don’t feel so dumpy anymore and I’m excited about writing my new story again.

What’s your secret weapon for creating new characters?
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9 thoughts on “It’s Character Generation Time!

  1. MishaBurnett says:

    A detective novel that I read a long time ago (I think it may have been one of Joseph Waumbaugh’s, but I won’t swear to it) described a policeman’s way of describing people by first finding a stereotype that fit the person and then listing ways in which the person differed from the stereotype. I find that a very helpful thought exercise.

    In speculative works I like to blend fantasy tropes with real world types. For example, in Cannibal Hearts I have a character called Exquisite who is a “necroid” a type of undead based on Clive Barker’s cenobites. When I developed the necroids I was looking at Barker’s cenobites as basically S&M fetishists carried to their logical extreme and so I started writing the necroidim based on people in the gay leather community that I know. The result is a character that I really enjoy writing, sort of a flaming goth who has pretensions of dark brooding intensity, but with a swish.

    Oh, and your random character generator seems to have made my eldest daughter. To the best of my knowledge she doesn’t know a move called the “Hidden Monster’s Dance Of Pain”, but if she did, she would totally use it. And then go home to watch “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”.

    • Ooh, that’s a good approach. I have a tendency to get sucked into stereotypes too easily, but using the exercise of figuring out how they differ from one would probably help.

      And my Werewolf is now a My Little Pony fan. 🙂

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Depending upon the age that the lycanthropy manifested itself, I can see a young werewolf being very attracted to My Little Pony. There aren’t a lot of quadrupedal role models for young girls, and the series stresses loyalty to friends, aka a pack.

        As an adult, your werewolf would idealize the show as an image of her dream pack. Particularly if her parents were either not lycanthropes, or lycanthropes who sought to suppress their duel nature. That could be a very poignant central image for a character, the young girl knowing that she is different and latching onto a group of magical animals as a surrogate family.

      • That is brilliant! I’ll have to think about how she became a Were to make it work with my cosmology and the Pack she’s part of. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Vagrance says:

    Considering supporting casts don’t get that much spotlight, it usually pays to give them some memorable traits. While one may not always use the generator, it can easily throw terms at us that start a new train of thoughts.

    One thing they’ll teach you in marketing is the use of unusual associations. Not all of them will be winners though (Microwave-able Ice Cream, yes it exists).

    • That’s the idea, just to break myself out of a certain train of thought and come up with different characters so they’re not completely faceless and boring.

      Fortunately, I have beta readers and CPs to tell me if I’ve made a microwaveable ice-cream character and need to tone back my crazy.

  3. Most of my characters are “I wish someone would write this” characters. It’s not a very specific process initially, but as a fairly rabid reader I am often in the position of wondering “what if” about characters that somehow don’t but really should exist. I find that is especially true with characters of color, characters with certain kinds of genders or sexualities or religions or family circumstances or dis/abilities or hobbies or etcetera etcetera. So maybe ask yourself if there’s a type of character you haven’t seen much of and/or want to see more of?

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I do that a lot. I made the character of Godiva’s lawyer in Cannibal Hearts a middle-class Cherokee, mostly because I think that Native characters in fiction are underrepresented, and they tend to be written in so that the author can get on a social justice soapbox.

      Stuart Dogs is a different character than if I had called him Stuart Smith and written him as an American of European descent, but he isn’t in the book to be “the Native American Character”, he’s in the book to be “the Lawyer Character”.

    • That’s a good idea, too. Characters that defy the norm can be fun and give depth to your overall cast.

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