Thursday, June 30

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, June 30, 2016 4 comments
by guest author Tyrean Martinson 

“Shadow Girl” - Photo Credit: Anna Martinson

1.      The character pops into my head, usually after I’ve asked myself a “what if” question about something:
·         What if the victim of bullying is bullied by shunning because of something dangerous he did as a child? (“Seedling”)
·         What if a young swordswoman becomes the unexpected recipient of a blade of power that others think should belong to them? (original prompt for Champion in the Darkness)
·         What if a reluctant young bride has woven protection for herself into her traditional bridal gown? (Current WIP)

2.      The “what if” question creates spin-off questions for me:
·         What did the bullying victim do to be shunned? What if he wanted to change?
·         What if the swordswoman’s country was attacked before she received the blade of power?
·         Why is the bride reluctant? What if she’s being “sold” into a polygamous marriage? What if her wedding party is attacked by bandits?

3.      I start to create character profiles. I don’t worry about getting everything down, but I want to know these areas:
·         Name
·         Family “status” and who their family members are, if that’s important to the story
·         His/her place in their society
·         His/her strengths and at least one weakness
·         His/her heart’s desire in the scope of the story
·         I work on the physical attributes next, but this one stumps me sometimes because my descriptions seemed to start sounding alike from character to character.
As I write the story, I add to the character profiles.

4.      I pick images for my character. I look for:
·         Facial features that stand out
·         Outfits that my character would wear
·         Weapons they might or might not carry - briefcase, backpack, musical instrument or sword?
·         Vehicle they might drive/fly/own/want

“Sunbeam” Photo Credit: Tyrean Martinson

·         General images that might capture how the character sees the world

“Through the Fence” - Photo Credit: Tyrean Martinson

For all of these, I use pinterest and take some of my own photos. I know I’m not great at physical descriptions, so this step has huge importance for me, and I often create collages that I print out and stick to my wall above my desk.

5.      If I’m struggling with a character, I write “out of book” scenes that take me back to his/her childhood, or take me to a scene that would never actually happen in the book. I ask myself more questions along the way:
·         Why does this character hate the color orange? Did that come from a childhood incident of some kind? What other ways did that incident change this character?
·         OR What would a sword-wielding fantasy heroine do if she landed in the local McDonald’s or Starbucks with her best friend? What if she landed there with her enemy? What would she do there and why?

Other variations on how I create and develop characters:
1.      I find a picture first and start asking questions about the person in the image.
2.      I watch a few movies in the same genre and listen for dialogue pacing. (This is an area I hope to expand on in the next year or so since I struggle with creating dialogue.)
Tyrean Martinson
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Latest Book: Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry is an exploration of many characters and their views of the world. 

How do you create and develop characters?


  1. Great guest post, Tyrean! "What if" questions help shape a lot of my characters, too. Makes it easier to develop them in ways I may have never once considered!

    1. It's interesting how questions work for storytelling. They just seem to lead into imaginative horizons.

      Thanks for stopping by, Heather.

  2. Thank you for having me here, Laurel!