Creating Characters
Characters: Creating Characters
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Defining attributes

The character and objectives of Robin Hood set out in this way offer scope for a range of story situations. He may have other skills than being an archer, but that is the key one for his character. Such a skill is a defining attribute, and is essential for the storyline.

On the other hand, Robin Hood, Sinbad the Sailor, Captain Ahab (Moby Dick) go out of their way for adventure.


List a defining skill of:

Sherlock Holmes - James Bond - Bugs Bunny
Rumplestiltskin - Supermouse - Wyatt Earp - Napoleon
The Devil - Charlie Chaplin


Robin Hood's attributes include being young, daring, and an excellent archer. His daring and archery skill makes him a natural leader. We assume that he is good looking, which in turn creates a love interest. His fighting ability will require tests for his skill, so the situations almost create themselves. What he needs is a reason to use his skills. This can be war outside the country or rebellion within it. He is a rebel, and his cause is to 'rob the rich to feed the poor'.

The defining attributes of Sherlock Holmes are his analytical abilities, his skill as an actor, and a vast range of knowledge on subjects that relate to his work. His analytical skills require an unemotional attitude, which in turn means he will have no love interest. His psychological needs for complex problems show a low boredom threshold. This leads to his drug taking and bouts of depression. His skill as an actor enables him to investigate problems without being suspected. All these attributes provide counterpoint situations to the main storyline.

Although in most cases it does not matter what other abilities a character has if they are not used as part of a story, this background knowledge serves to give a character depth, and provides reference points. For example, Sherlock Holmes can play the violin. Though it only helped him solve one crime. His ability as an actor helped him solve many crimes. It would be interesting to know how he took up acting as part of being a detective.


Suggest a reason for Sherlock Holmes taking up acting, and how he went about it.

Suggest two other people who are required to be unemotional in their profession.


Reinforcing attributes

People tend to build on their strongest attributes. A beautiful woman will spend a lot more time on looking beautiful than a less attractive woman would. This is because for her it is a useful asset that can be exploited over and above just getting attention. That is, she may use her beauty to get things that less beautiful women would have to attain in other ways.

Also being beautiful means that people respond in a more attentive way, so a beautiful person may well cultivate charm, a good sense of dress and all the mannerisms that go with being the centre of attraction.

On the other hand an ugly woman may well have to make a great effort to get attention. She may do this by being making herself capable and respected so that people need her.

In the case of Cinderella, she is not seen as beautiful until she has all the accoutrements of a princess.

Snow White's mother is beautiful but she is also wicked. It is a common storyline to have someone who is outwardly beautiful yet inwardly ugly.

The idea of 'beauty and innocence' going together is used in fairy tales yet in real life is rarely true. Someone with beauty and charm is likely to exploit this asset to attain their goals as an easy option. Later in life they may find it more difficult to exploit these assets, so will suffer as they may not have learnt to make friends who are supportive. Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Grey' is an example.

People who are fit and healthy tend to spend time making themselves more so. Oddly enough, people who are unfit and unhealthy also tend to spend time making themselves more unfit.

People with good attributes are admired and envied while those will bad ones are looked down upon. A character's defining attributes need to be reinforced. We see this in strong men doing muscular feats, fast guns showing off their shooting skill, etc. It can also be shown in less obvious attributes as with James Bond showing his sophistication in drinks, dress, cars, etc.


What are the likely clues to indicate a sports person in their dress, manner, speech, hobbies etc.

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