How I Created a Story Character
This is the character I have created to use in a short story that uses foreshadowing as a technique. What I thought would be awesome to do is…show you step by step my thought process in creating this character. As I brainstormed ideas and story lines and settings you see it all here in action.
How to Digest My Mind’s Mess
The words in quotes are text I intend to use for a rough draft. The questions are my own and lead into the brainstorming sessions. The final character, of course, could get his head chopped off in the first paragraph of the short story I write with him in it…you never know when it comes to the whims of the Story.
However, in the meantime, hopefully you can gain some insight into how to develop your own characters without the structured regimen of all of those character interview sheets you see these days. Not hating, not shaming, just offering an alternative to coming up with fictional characters for your short stories, novellas, user personas, or imaginary best friends.
Now, let’s get started, shall we?
Rushing silent-soft on the pine needled trail, he darted out from the right side of the path. In front of you. Whoosh! Looks back with dark black eyes, that deer in the headlights look. You stop. Stare thinking about the camera you constantly hold that is there in your hand, but should you try to take a photo of this guy? Too fast! No way, a video would have been better anyway.
He is wearing a thin white, pocketless crew cut tee, a size too small but not tight just short. In October, in the woods of Washington. Camel colored cargo shorts clearly his own, fitted, well worn but not ragged or dirty. No shoes. No socks. That was the kicker. Nothing in his hands, no bags, no backpack. No flannel tied around his waist, no smoke clouds trailing.
Who. Where. Why. What is happening?
This man was running from something or someone. It was 1:30 pm on a Tuesday. No one else was there. No chasers, no followers, no one else to witness this wood-madness.
(Is this the same man who was making those noises in the woods? The noises?)
A week after the wild running man episode, I return to the forest where he was fleeing. I am in the general acreage as he was but not the exact space, different trails. Walking through a clearing off of the path, I stop to listen to the world around me. Savor the sounds of silence. But not today.
The silence is sliced by a squeezing sound, almost like a screen door come unlatched and is left hanging free on restless hinges. A long squeal of metal or some other material being strained. The strain sounds similar to a tree swaying or two trees leaning, but it was not that.
More of a squeaking air sound right in front of me, not above me, and in this thicket of brush. Could’ve even been a bear fart, it is that kind of squeak—short, soft and silly. The thicket was a mass of shady pine boughs light can’t pierce.
(Could that man who was running through the woods be living in a hideout in that thicket of brush?)
The patch is only across the walking path from the outdoor school located in the middle of the forest. It’s a STEM program for high schoolers that involves outdoor classrooms in the woods, beaches, zoo, and aquarium in the surrounding environment.
A fantastic place for students to get into the real world with applicable skills and more ecologically focused thinking. That is exactly what the world needs more of in my opinion. However, a hermit living less than 50 yards from the school? Not so much.
(If he is living in that thicket, he is currently out on the prowl. Foraging for winter gear perhaps? Or….)
Brainstorm possibilities of what he could be doing:
running from aliens, coyotes, bears, raccoons, tourists, orcas, sea lions…the Sasquatch Himself
getting chased by criminals
being a criminal himself
preparing for an ultra marathon by running through the night nonstop
high—pot, PCP, crack, heroin, meth, mushrooms *he was Definitely on Something
maybe he was stuck in the forest all night because he found one of those special shrooms and it tripped him out
connection to the hermit shack theory—
he lives in the shack, he was just visiting
he just escaped from some psycho that actually lives there
Brainstorm the Storyline
the shack is a meth shed for making or storage and he uncovers it after the original owner is arrested
what happens next
he gets into the batch and is up for fifteen days straight
he roams the woods and finds…
a portal, another dimension, a time machine-no
a new species of wild cat or bear or an animal that escaped from the zoo that cross bred with another species of a similar kind and became a new species
he isn’t sure if the animal is real or if he is hallucinating so he takes off running because he doesn’t know what to do
when he does this it triggers the fight or flight response in the animal and it takes off after him to attack
what kind of animal are we talking about here?
the zoo has wolves and that sounds good, wolves with dogs with Sasquatch to create a wild wolf that is much larger than normal and far less….i don’t know a dog??
The animal is something that was created by a psycho that has the shed off of the school property. The psycho is a college professor *remember the math prof that built Pea Ridge house* who was booted from teaching and camped out in the woods near the school to pretend like he had his own class. He is a mentally ill person who hallucinated having his own classroom of students out there in that clearing and his shed is where he performs experiments to share with the class of imaginary students.
When I heard the door creaking, it was a sign he was not in the shed and was out. Is he alive and seeing me? Is he dead? Did the guy in the white shirt kill him? Is he the guy in the white shirt? Is he there or away?
FINISHED CHARACTER: So this guy that I saw could actually be a psycho college professor with piss-poor experiences in the classroom. When he no longer has a job he snaps and decides to hide out in the woods. He lives near the school there in the shed and is conducting experiments on animals he steals from the zoo and aquarium.
Return Next Week for More…and a Name
What happens next and what will I name this wilderness wild man? Return next week to find out, and subscribe to my RSS feed for the latest updates on when I publish blog posts about creative writing in action.