Creating Characters
Characters: Creating Characters
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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?


Write a description of yourself as:

You think you are - As your family think you are
As your friends think you are
As your neighbours think you are
As your Tutor/Manager thinks you are

Put yourself in the role of:

A hero - A villain - A member of the opposite sex

Describe yourself as:

A child - As an elderly person

Write out your CV for a job.

How would you describe yourself if you were putting an advert in a 'lonely hearts' column.

In the above exercises try to find images that support your descriptions.


Base characters on people you know. People you know well such as family, friends, and acquaintances all have characteristics that identify them.

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 versions.

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.


Create characters of your own based on the following:

A Pop group of animals based on the Beatles
A cat similar to Winnie the Pooh
A female version of Dracula
An alternative monster to the Great White whale Moby Dick
An insect version of Superman


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:

Tarzan - King Kong - Cinderella - The Beast in Beauty and the Beast
James Bond - King Arthur of Camelot - Robin Hood - Salome
Donald Duck


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 actions.

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 figures:

The mad scientist - The Whiz kid - The crooked policeman
The seductress - 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

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