What is a character?
A Character is a personality. He or she will have certain strengths,
weaknesses, attitudes, mannerisms, habits, and goals that define what
they do;why they do it; and how they do it.
Sherlock Holmes is a well-defined character who might be described as
a tall thin middle aged man, who is highly intelligent, logical, obsessive,
and unemotional. He works as a detective after having studied medicine.
He is easily bored so demands cases of great complexity that are seemingly
insoluble. In brief, what he does is detective work. Why he does it is
because he is bored unless he has a puzzle to solve. How he does it is
in a way that is peculiar to him, and distinct from other detectives.
These aspects make him interesting.
His ultimate objective is to catch Moriarty, a cunning criminal who is
Holmes' mental equal. Apart from his logic, Sherlock Holmes is also accomplished
at acting and disguise. He uses radical methods that sometimes go beyond
the law in his attempts to catch criminals. He has various eccentricities
such as keeping tobacco in his slippers, taking morphine, and firing off
pistols in his bedroom.
Given the above description, the reader can follow the course of the
stories and understand the actions of Sherlock Holmes. An important point
is that there is a consistency in Holmes being logical, unemotional, and
eccentric. These are not attributes just put together at random. A well-defined
character has this type of consistency.
There are five common ways to create characters:
Base characters on yourself. How do you see yourself, and how
do others see you? Your own personality will come through in any
character you create. It is usually the best basis for creating
a character, or even a series of characters, with each one representing
some aspect of yourself.
You can create a character based on yourself as you are now, as
a child, as an older person, and the opposite sex, and as your alter
ego - the hidden side of yourself. You can also try and imagine
yourself as a character in the past or future. Also imagine yourself
in and range of roles. What position would you be in a circus? What
sort of criminal would you make? What would you do if in a war?
How would you react in a crisis?
Base characters on people you know. People you know well such as
family, friends, and acquaintances all have characteristics that
Describe someone you know well as if you were trying to find them,
for example, to the police.
Describe someone as if you had to do a job reference for them.
Describe them as if you were telling a story about them and needed
to supply the background details.
Base characters on established figures Superman, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Winnie the Pooh, Dracula, Charlie Chaplin are typical of
characters that have been used as the basis for other characters.
Shakespeare's characters have been transposed many times into modern
They provide a template for developing other characters. Once the
idea of Superman has been established, then superboy, supergirl,
supermouse, son of Superman, all becomes obvious developments. Clones
and enemies of Superman also become other areas of potential.
Base characters on several established figures Take Mickey Mouse
and combine him with Sherlock Holmes. The combination of Mickey
Mouse's personality with Sherlock Holmes attitudes and mannerisms
give a new character that is different from either of them.
You might combine Frankenstein's monster with Einstein to make
a super-intelligent monster. Or combine Bugs Bunny with Sherlock Holmes to create a logical wisecracking character.
What characters could you combine with:
The Beast in Beauty and the Beast
King Arthur of Camelot
Base characters on cliché figures. The transposition of established
characters to a different context. Cowboys become Spacemen. Innocent
looking children become invading aliens. By using cliché characters
but in different situations than normal the viewer has something
to identify with but without being able to predict the character's
Typically we would know that a good spaceman and a bad spaceman
will fight it out, but what sort of weapons would they use, and
what other unknown resources would they have.
Create characters based on the following cliché
The mad scientist
The Whiz kid
The crooked policeman
The wisecracking detective
The ambitious and unscrupulous politician
The alcoholic artist
The quiet hero
The super intelligent animal
The neurotic mother-in-law
The despot father
The religious maniac
The intelligent robot
The rebellious teenager