Ask any author in nearly any genre, creating characters is hard. You want them to seem familiar, but not derivative. Complex, but not angst-y. Individual, but not in your face. This is especially hard in the Fantasy Genre, when stereotypes are a byword. When you see the word "elf" what do you think of?
These guys, right? Yeah, I thought so. I can say my elves are different 'til I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't matter until I show you how my characters are different. It's all in the character of your characters.
Any number of authors can tell you their process in creating characters. Some authors create grids, J.K. Rowling for instance. Other authors like Stephen King like to fly by the seat of their pants. I'm one of those fly by the seat of your pants types. Often, my characters appear whole cloth. I'll see something, or hear something, or see an actor, and suddenly, they appear.
There's three traits that I value most when I create a character: how they act, how they look, and how they sound. "How they sound? Isn't this a book?" You may ask yourselves. Yes, this is a book, but sound is highly important to me. Each character must have a unique mode of speech, and envisioning a voice is critical for me to find that character's unique voice. It also helps to find a singing voice for each character, as my characters spend a lot of time singing.
Take my latest project. I have been working on "The Treeman of Roses" since September last. The character of Rhodon, the titular treeman and the basic story came to me in a flash after running into fanart of a character from my childhood on DeviantArt. I started writing, and more and more backstory came through.
He was a dryad, a hermit, had control over flowers, he needs a name... Rhodon, there we go, a Google search later. He was sad, but why? His wife is dead! Oh, the poor thing. What do red roses mean? Loyalty, promises kept, passion, love. His voice... he's tall, so he needs a voice to fit, a baritone or low tenor. Ron Perlman, or Scott McNeil... maybe Keith David. Oh, very fine, I know they sing. He speaks in an old fashioned way. Clothes, he needs clothes. He's thin, all angles, a style all his own, but dramatic, sweeping capes... I'll deal with that later. He's constant as the seasons, loyal as summer, fierce as a lion.
All of this came about in a matter of days. Even after the first burst of creativity, more ideas came to me right along over the next few months. The story warped from a straight up Platonic Beauty and the Beast to a story about recovery from grief and mental illness (specifically post traumatic stress disorder).
The heroine, Goewyn, has been with me so long I don't recall much about her creation, only that it started with Lawhead's Song of Albion trilogy and King Llew Silver Hand's beloved wife Queen Goewyn. Her presence has always been of gentleness and kindness. Her hair butter gold and her eyes blue. I have always associated her with hope and sunshine, starting with my first conception of her as a fairy of light. That changed to her control over plants, but her gentle, healing presence hasn't changed from the first time she appeared in my head. She would heal the wounded dryad and bring him from the darkness of mourning and PTSD. Not cure him, but make him well enough to live again. Goewyn's true nature is a nurturer.
More characters came in to fill gaps. A redeemable witch, other treemen who know Rhodon's pain, Goewyn's extended family. Each of them entering at the right time, like a ballet dance. Minor characters, but no less dynamic and important.
So there you go. That's how characters come to life in my world, and this is only two of them! Despite the fact that they are from old stock, the oldest fictional stock we have, I hope my readers can look past the old stereotypes and tropes and see who they are.
I'm T.K. Wilson, Read my blog for great information and stories about dolls, toy restoration, Christian Fantasy and so much more! Blog updates Fridays.