Short Fiction Stories – Finding Your Characters

When I start thinking about writing a Short Fiction Story I start by figuring out what it is going to be about, where it is going to take place, what will happen and most importantly who it will happen to. Finding the right fit of character and situation can be difficult, so here are some helpful tips to keep you heading in the right direction when making that all important decision.

1. Write about what you know.

This is the age old saying for any writer, but when it comes to characters it is even more important. It can be hard to visualize how your character will react in certain situations if you haven’t interacted with your character on a personal level. One of my favorite things to do is to watch people. I know it sounds a little stalker like but I assure you it is purely for research and I don’t follow them home. When I am in shopping malls or restaurants or even driving down the road I watch people and see how they behave in the situations that they are in. How do they avoid conflicts? How do they interact with the people around them? Are they shy? Outgoing? What would happen if situation X happened to them?

All this information is helpful in creating a new character for your story. Now when you are writing about a shy person in a situation you will know what it actually looks like to see a shy person in that situation or at least one that is similar. All you have to do is get into the habit of noticing people and what they do in any situation from the very mundane to the extremely tense.

2. You have to see it to write it.

When you are describing your character in your story how do you know what they look like? I often have a picture from a magazine or the internet printed out beside me so that I can reference it whenever I am describing a certain attribute of the character to my readers. How long is their hair? Does their hair cover their eyes? What happens when they smile? Does their facial expression change with different situations? How does it change? These are important questions to know and it can be helpful to base your character on someone you know or someone who you see often in order to pin point these attributes properly.

3. Define who your character is.

What kind of person is your character? What are their inner most desires? What do they dream about at night? What kind of people do they like and dislike? How you define your character as a person will change your story completely because the simplest mannerisms can change a character dramatically in your readers eyes. If you don’t know the inner most working of your characters mind then it can be difficult to show the reader that they are a good or bad person. It is necessary to know everything there is to know about them because you have to essentially become them while you are writing. You have to live their lives out on your computer screen.

Whenever you are looking for a new character for your short fiction stories or even your novel it is important to know everything there is to know about each and every one of your characters. Even characters that play small roles need to be addressed. How would they react to a certain situation? Do you have them reacting properly to the situation they are in? What do their values and moral tell them to do in this situation? By following the steps outlined above you will have a good start in creating your characters. By watching people as they go about their daily lives and learning from them you can get a better idea of what your character will be like. Shape your characters after people you know or meet so you can know their behaviors patterns and their mannerisms. Remember that there are few if any people in real life that are all good or all evil so make sure you reflect that in your character as well. If they are an evil villain then give them a nice side or a hurt side, this will also help you develop and inner conflict with the character and allow your story to evolve.

David Lawton

About the Author: Short fiction stories are a large part of my life. I spend time every day imagining life in a world of fiction. I have never been published but I have never tried. I post my short stories and some writing exercises for everyone to try out. Thanks for taking the time to read my articles/stories.