Stary Writing Camp: How to Design Characters?

After learning about the outline design in last week’s article, writers can move forward to the character design.

Characters are vital for a good story. Their personalities, identities, or abilities, to a great extent, determine the storyline, and have remarkable impacts on readers’ feelings. But sometimes, readers find some behaviors of characters are quite confusing to understand. What went wrong?

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

The answer is OOC, out of character. This term was initially used in fan-fiction when an individual behaved in a manner that was inconsistent with his/her personality, identity, ability, or any other setting assigned to the character. To get a better understanding of this situation, we can check the example from Obsession with My Forced Wife below.

What would Lance, a domineering billionaire, do when he discovered that he had unknowingly fallen in love with Evelyn, the daughter of his enemy? Consider the following options:
A. He could pretend that he hadn’t fallen in love with Evelyn and deliberately neglect her.
B. He could confess his love to Evelyn, happily and nervously.
C. He could pretend not to care about Evelyn but then appear in front of her to attract her attention.
D. He could deliberately approach other women and make Evelyn jealous.

Here if the answer were Option B, some readers might wonder how a proud billionaire like Lance could happily confess his love to his enemy’s daughter, even if he were in love with her.

Obviously, option B is OOC because it overthrows the character setting of Lance, a domineering billionaire. If the writer writes the story this way, the reader might immediately quit reading. As for the other options, different readers might have different opinions.

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To avoid OOC in writing, the writer should know and design the characters well. For example, when designing Lance’s character, we can start with his background and then move on to his personality, physical features, attitude, etc.:

Childhood

Lance was born into the Cameron family, a famous Mafia family. He had a happy childhood. The Cameron family and the McLean family had a close relationship for over a decade, but something heinous and unforgivable happened. Enemy Z of the Cameron family laid a trap to kill Lance’s father. As chance would have it, Evelyn’s grandfather, the head of the McLean family, learned about this plot. He intended to expose Enemy Z, but Enemy Z took Evelyn’s parents and threatened to kill them if Evelyn’s grandfather did not remain silent. Then, Lance’s father and elder brother died in an explosion. Soon after, Lance’s mother died of a broken heart. Suddenly, Lance was an orphan. His uncle drove him out of the family and snatched the position of the head of the family that should have belonged to him. Lance had to live a miserable life outside and all alone. When Lance was an adult, he quietly returned to the Mafia world, and he started from scratch and cultivated his power and prestige. He killed his uncle and took up the mantle as the leader of the Cameron family.

Personality

Lance was destined to be somewhat indifferent and arrogant, and he hated the McLean family for what they put him through.

As the leader of the Mafia, Lance always wore a stern face, and he seldom smiled. He had an imposing manner. He never talked nonsense, and his orders were always decisive. He seldom overreacted, even in the face of things and people he hated, and he was able to use simple acts and gestures to make others fear him. The people around him carefully obeyed his orders and did not dare to go against him.

Lance’s grandmother, his only relative, meant the world to him. She was his “All-in-all.” He would put down all of his defenses and show his warm side in front of his grandmother. To make his grandmother happy, he was willing to make some concessions. He was even prepared to marry against his conscience.

There was also a nice side to Lance, and it was fascinating. Lance never hurt innocent people. He cared about his family with all his heart. After spending so much of his life in the Mafia, though, he seldom expressed his love.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Physical features

He was 26 years old. He had short, dark brown hair, hard facial lines, a high nose, and deep, charming eyes. He was tall and strong. With perfect muscles in his chest and abdomen, he was like an elaborately carved statue of an ancient Greek.

Goal

After surviving the tragedy of his youth, Lance set his goal to make himself strong enough so that he could keep his position in the Mafia and protect his family. He had experienced the cruelty of the Mafia world, so he wanted his family and future generations to live a safe and happy life. Therefore, he was developing a film business while running a Mafia-owned business.

Attitude towards feelings

Lance had a girlfriend, Penelope. When he was at his lowest, she left him for a middle-aged billionaire. After that, Lance closed his heart and gave up on love. For him, marriage was a dispensable thing in life. He didn’t care whom he married, so long as she was obedient and his grandmother was happy.

Social relationship

Mikael: Lance’s best friend since childhood, a playboy, and an arms dealer. Mikael was Lance’s most trusted friend, emotional counselor, and business partner.

Belle: Lance’s grandmother, a gentle and wise old woman. Belle was Lance’s only and beloved relative. To ease the relationship between the Cameron family and the McLean family, Belle suggested that Lance marry Evelyn.

Penelope: Lance’s ex-girlfriend, a sexy and beautiful “Material Girl.” Lance had had a happy time with her, but Penelope preferred a man with power and money, so she left Lance and married a middle-aged Singaporean billionaire. Later, Penelope returned to Lance (after the divorce) and tried to win his heart back.

After creating some vivid details for the character, the domineering billionaire Lance is much more alive and convincing. With these details in mind, writers can easily write an attractive story and avoid OOC. Though writers don’t need to include every aspect, it’s still important to consider the details as many as possible. Once you’ve done the job of designing characters, you will find that your story is more exciting and that it is ready to come out.

Wanna share your brilliant idea of designing characters? Come & join the Stary Writing Academy Facebook group, and discuss with more than 70,000 writers! Also, you can share your fascinating work with readers and writers worldwide in the Stary Writing Camp. Together, we make more progress for the better!

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