Make it a challenge to write about someone that is entirely different than you are, or than you like. You don't have to make it a main character. Just put it in the story and try to give it some attention. You might happen to like it over a while. Writing about different characters opens your mind to different things. If you don't know how to write, just do research on people that have similar character traits, and try to imagine the way they would react to certain things.
I too have a stereotypical archetype character that I like to write about. Most often these are my main characters. But I always make it a challenge to write about characters that aren't like that archetype at all, simply because I love the challenge to write about something I don't know about yet, or don't identify with yet
What helps me to create characters that are not similar is to first think of the situation you would like to put them in. Considering what genre you are writing and what you want to happen, then decide how you would think your characters attitude and actions would be towards any adversity or prosperity, hopefully giving you and idea of their personality and how it will effect the plot. Wether you want them to be bad or good, intelligent or stupid (to me), simply comes down to personal influence from people around me and the books i read.
Lucy-MerrimanFeatured By OwnerJan 15, 2013Student General Artist
Here's something that helps me make my characters different: listen to the way different people talk. A professor speaks differently than a truck driver. A Californian surfer speaks differently than a harried Brooklyn-ite. Even teens speak differently than each other--a hyped up "scene" kid will have different speech than a nervous "geek" or a quiet but mature track-jock.
So: figure out the age, background, and a bit of personality for, say, two or three characters. Then have them talk about how to solve a problem, or a controversial issue. This is really just an exercise, this conversation doesn't have to stick in your story. The main idea is, their personality will shine through their dialogue, and each will be different. You can talk about how they look, but more importantly, describe how they move, if they're expressive or not--maybe even what they're wearing if it's telling.
And here's the most important part of the exercise: each character has to want something, and each want has to be slightly different. One wants to be liked but has poor social skills, so comes off "needy." One wants to prove that she's better than her deadbeat mom at all costs, and has little patience for others flaws. One wants to win a competition of some kind. Etc.
How does each one try to get what they want during the course of the story? Are they successful or do they fail? Do any characters have conflicting wants?
We write what we know. To be able to write well, you have to be able to get into the mind of another person, know how they feel, what they want, what they fear, why they do what they do. You have to be able to think as someone else would. Otherwise, it’s not really fiction.
Well, you're female. And how old are you? I'm guessing not older than 20. Am I right?
We often write about what we have firsthand experience of, whether consciously or unconsciously. Like, it would be more challenging for me to write from the perspective of an 80-year-old black man, because I'm a white female 30-something. There would be nothing wrong with me limiting whatever I write to my own experiences. A lot of writers do it and still manage a fair amount of variety. The variety can come through little character details that may be different, or through differences in conflict, motivation, or plotting. Maybe the characters she deals with are all different. Maybe the setting. Basically, there are a ton of variables you could change while keeping you protagonists similar.
If you absolutely must have more variety, then start with the qualities you've just defined. OK, 16-year-old girl with short brown hair. How can you change that up? Well, maybe you don't know what it's like to be a 30-something woman, but you do know what it's like to be a 5 or 10, right? So by changing that one variable, you've made a different character, yay! Maybe push yourself further. Instead of writing a girl, write a boy. This will be more challenging, since you're not a boy, but you probably know boys, have read lots of stories about boys, and can make a pretty good guess, right? Another variable. What about hair color? Well, this is a minor/superficial quality; changing it doesn't impact much, but it can help add variety. At this point, I'd suggest looking more at the character's personality, seeing what you can stretch, change, etc. Your characters could all be brown-haired teenage girls, but maybe one is outgoing, the other is shy, one is a brilliant pianist, the other hates music but loves soccer. Think about their job, their school, their social/economic class, where they live, etc. Stretch your imagination, write a character who's 50-years-old, write a character from an abusive family, write a character whose parents are millionaires. Don't just limit yourself to your own experience, think of people you know, people you've read about, people you'd like to meet.
When I feel like my characters are too same-y, I just think about what I haven't written. Or I think about the type I'm writing and some other way to vary it. For instance, I've written lots of sensitive characters with extra-normal talents, which could get same-y after a while, but each one has a different relationship to their talents, different upbringings, etc. All of this goes into making each character unique enough that I don't feel I'm writing the same person all the time. Also, the stories themselves and the other characters are all different.
Labels can be very helpful in the early stages of creating a character. Choose a couple of things about them that broadly identifies them, and then work your way inward from there. Just like when you meet someone in real life, figure out what there first impression is. When you meet someone, who may say to yourself "That person is a jock, a diva, or a nerd".
(Quick Example) Say you know the job of a character, like a School Teacher. There's a couple different stereotypes you can start from. There's the teacher that has given up and just lets kids coast through their class, the one that tries to be cool and connect with the kid, the hardass that is ridiculously strict, the new teacher with high ideals and big (likely unobtainable) dreams, the Dr. Feel-good guidance counselor. Once your locked into something generic, you can work yourself through their hobbies, home life, and personality.
One of the best ways to really get into the heads of your characters is to imagine their reactions to certain people. For a writing exercise, try writing the first time your characters meet each other and how they either get along or find they dislike each other. A characters personality is most defined by their interactions with the other characters.
YTcyberpunkFeatured By OwnerJan 15, 2013Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That's forgivable, since most main characters in *general* are all the same.
Average, everyman/woman, between the ages of 15 and 40, Caucasian, either Christian or unaffiliated with any religion, appears either beautiful or is not given any description at all, lives a dull uneventful life, at some point is orphaned, and everything changes when an older, more powerful person shows up and says that he/she is The Chosen One/Has the perfect talent for my heist, and whisks them away on an adventure.
"Harry Potter" gets points for at least telling us what Harry looks like, without making him "hansom," and for at least putting some effort into the prophecy's back story and why it was Harry.