Writing character types is an important skill for a writer. This is an article for the beginner at this task. I could call it Character Types 101, but there is a section later on about learning to develop more character types.
Two Easy Character Types
The people that we meet every day are usually presenting personas. What is a persona? It’s an image that we present to others. We show different personas to our boss, co-workers, friends, and relatives. Sometimes we present different personas to particular individuals. Because we use personas all the time, we can get into trouble when we try to create characters from the core of our being.
At the center, you don’t have a persona. It’s the real you. The real you is multi-dimensional and adaptable. The real you can have a religious life and a secular life that don’t match up. The real you can have a work ethic and a home ethic that don’t match up. There are lots of conflicts in the real you and that makes using your core as a character type fail.
Most of your characters can’t be multi-dimensional. The protagonist and antagonist can be. A few others can be two dimensional. All the other characters will need to be one dimensional. They will be stereotypes. Stereotypes are the basis of personas.
What are the two easy character types?
Two character types that should be easy for you to create are the persona you use for work and the one you use for your personal life. You may not even realize you present yourself differently in each place. Think about it a bit. You need to present yourself differently depending on the context.
Once you’ve figured out those two personas, you can work on more.
How to Move on to More Character Types
Consider the different personas you’ve used for different jobs. Labor, office work, and customer service all require a different type of persona.
Unless you’re a sociopath, most of your personas are positive and friendly. Try to find your negative persona. You need it for villains. Look for the negativity that you normally suppress because of the social consequences. Some people don’t suppress that negativity. Study how they talk and behave to make good villains for your fiction.
You will also be able to find personas you’ve used in most long term relationships.
Once you have found a few distinct personalities (personas), you’ll want to use them over and over. You have the inside track on those characters. You can avoid having half a dozen cookie-cutter personalities in your writing by giving each character their own professions, hobbies, and biases.
Characterization can be one of the hardest parts of writing realistic stories. Build up a collection of personas first and you’ve done half the work in advance.
Article by Ivan Izo.