Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that characters have a powerful and often profound ability to either carry a story to new heights or to drag it along in the dirt.
As the idea of the Fourborn world took shape in my mind, I dreamt of well-rounded, multi-dimensional super characters who would grow and mature along with my story. The reality was very different and I quickly learnt that creating characters who were more than cardboard cutouts - wasn’t going to be easy.
Google is full of articles discussing the importance of fictional character building and it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon the character questionnaire. Fictional Characters - The Full Analysis? A Thousand and One Questions to Ask your Character? I looked at all of them and once I got past the easy questions like - what colour is your characters hair and what is their favourite food - the really challenging ones started to present themselves.
How does your character handle fear? What’s your character’s favourite time or day and why? What’s your character’s biggest regret? A character’s history, their relationships with others and their views on the world are all very important when developing them but believe me, answering the pages of questions on an immigration form was easier than this!
Character building is naturally one of the first stages you tackled when planning and plotting a lore and the story around it and I used the character questionnaire technique when I developed Kofi Magoro and Lela Iboro Asar - the hero and heroine of my first book - Fourborn Wind and Fire. In the end it was a lot of fun but having said that, I think the whole process should be used as a very loose guide.
The process - if stuck to - limits the creativity that happens when you’re writing the rest of the story.
I went back to my questionnaires halfway through writing Wind and Fire and realized that the questions I’d filled in on behalf of my characters were stupid and childish. Kofi and Lela had simply grown beyond them to the point of where they were just as alive (if only on the page and in my imagination) as I was.
Fantasy and it’s sub-genres of epic questing and adventure are all about the journey the character has to make. The obstacles they face and the challenges they overcome together with the people they happen to meet along the way start to effect them one way or another. This stimuli changes the way the character thinks and reacts. It changes their goals and priories and soon how they view the world around them.
In my opinion, a character needs to surprise and delight the writer and the intended audience throughout the story. The rough design of your character doesn’t necessarily need to change all that much but their personality definitely does. Setting a list of criteria and a boundary for your character to exist in so early on is like predetermining the personality of an unborn child even before they’ve had the chance to experience the world on their own.
I’m not promoting the idea of not having a plan for your characters. All I’m saying is that hours and hours are sent creating the perfect characters so why bother breathing life into them when they’re only going to live inside a cage?
Our characters are alive! Let them break out of their chains. Allow them to grow and develop on their own - trust me, they’ll be guaranteed to surprise you!
Megan Futcher's Mini-Bio:
People and cultures have always fascinated me and I enjoy thumbing through heavy books on anthropology and archaeology. My novels and novellas dive into an unknown world before recorded history and I love asking the 'what if' question while I share online and write the 4 born, a fantasy spin on human evolution and freedom exploring strength and beauty of multiculturalism.
Wind and Fire Synopsis:
In a world where the four elements rule as gods, the Gaias of Wind, Fire, Water and Earth determine the existence and fate of every man and women. Threatening this seemingly perfect world is the Fourborn – a yet to be identified baby born of all four races and the only one who has the power to set mankind free from it's elemental shackles.
Divinely chosen in the pending chaos is a guardian from each race. With the words of an ancient prophesy as their only guide, they must find and protect the Four born at all costs or risk losing everything they hold dear.