FOR THE artistic & imaginative WRITER

Your Guide to Character Storyboarding

I need you to do me a favor.

I need you to close your eyes and picture your life as a whole, from birth to present. Don’t zero in on specific memories, but more connect them as you would connect different pieces of fabric on a quilt. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what you are going to see, but I can tell you what I see. I see multiple threads of various colors braiding in and out, ending and starting. Sometimes this braid is super thick, other times it’s just one measly string. This is how I see all the stories I write. Each thread accounts for a new element in the tale, most likely a character or event and they change color as they interact with each other. That image right there is what drives my character creation. On the surface, character creation can seem intensely complicated because you may be expected to create elaborate stories and personalities for each and every one of your characters. To put it bluntly, that’s a load of hogwash in my book. The only character you need to go in-depth to understand and comprehend is the main character(s) because they are the one that drives the story forward. If you have a two dimensional, static protagonist, your story will suffer. So, the first step to writing is finding and molding your perfectly imperfect main character.

The Protagonist

Creating the protagonist is the best part of storyboarding. During this time you can truly dive into your character and figure out what really makes them tick. I have a few methods of doing this. First, I draw my character. I will not be including a drawing on this post because I make chicken scratch look like a Monet painting. Nonetheless, I sketch my character then fill out an extensive character card detailing everything from their date of birth to their deepest, darkest fears. Finally, I ‘sit down’ with them and ask a series of questions, answering them as the character would to get a full hold on the attitude of this character. Yes, this sometimes includes muttering to myself in different accents and attitudes in an empty room. I’m a writer! I can get away with it. Once I know my character better than myself, I start to weave them into the story. This is where I will start to notice ’bald spots’, which are everywhere since all we really have is the main character and a plot. Now we add some brighter colors. Might I suggest a best friend or secondary character?

The Best Friend

While not always absolutely necessary, most main characters need a confidant. They need a safe place to go when everything goes wrong. They need a best friend. This best friend, also known as the secondary character, is the complement to the protagonist, meant to strengthen them and travel with them through their journey. They are Harry Potter’s Ron Weasley, Frodo’s Samwise, and, well, you get the idea. The exciting aspect of the best friend, as well as all other characters, is that they have their own life going on outside the protagonist’s, which gives you the opportunity to add more subplots and color to this story. You can add whatever you would like as long as it doesn’t detract from the main plot. When it comes to the main plot, don’t be afraid to share the secondary character’s perception of the main story, which can broaden the reader’s perception of what is going on. Creating a best friend differs depending on the protagonist. You typically don’t want a secondary character with a personality as big as Texas if the main character’s personality is more subtle. Instead, the best friend should be your cheerleader. A perfect example would be to create your protagonist to have low self-esteem. Their best friend would build them up and give them the confidence they need to achieve their goal, which may be defeating the antagonist.

The Antagonist

Dun, Dun, DUNNNN! This is the bad guy. The one who wants everything to crumble. Now, you can take the stereotypical approach to this character, creating them to be a thing of pure evil, or you can add dimension and reason to their cause. My personal favorite is creating a villain the reader relates to. This causes a conflict of interest which would later be addressed as the protagonist prepares for their showdown. It is important to note while I only brought up two forms, there are various types of antagonists, not all necessarily bad. Antagonists are the sparks that light the fire. They are the drama makers and therefore they can be anything from mental illness to a rabid dog that attacked your character when they were young. My best word of advice is to not go over the top on your villain. The goal of storytelling is to suck your readers in. If it’s not believable, then they’ll escape. Of course, that makes us sound like the bad guys. Which we aren’t- unless you’re John Green killing off all the love interests and main characters.

The Love Interest

Not every story needs one. Put the pitchforks down! Let me finish! Not every story needs one because your content can be compelling and dynamic on its own. But if you were to add one, here are a few tips. First, keep this love interest flawed. No one is perfect. A neat trick I like to pull is, at the beginning of the relationship, have the love interest appear perfect to both the reader and the character. Then, as the plot progresses, both the reader and the protagonist slowly become aware of the humanity of this character and either hate them or love them for it. That’s just my way of retaliating against these horrid romances where everything and everyone is perfect.  Second, try to get your reader to fall in love with this love interest if they are with the protagonist. It keeps your reader tuned in. If the love interest is with the secondary or tertiary characters, create a more bland character. The attention is on the protagonist. Let them keep the show.

Lions and Tigers and Characters, Oh My!

There are many more characters, to include the mentor, the flat character and the tertiary character. Much like the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, these characters fall in and out of the journey, never really staying with your protagonist but being there to support the story. Not every tale will include every character and it’s at the writer’s discretion who they will include. To refer back to my original imagery, your story is like a braid. When you plot these events and characters, you are in control of what colors and style of braiding you will use. There is no standard format when it comes to writing, which is why there is no set group of characters you must use. When I create my cast, I go by pure instinct. If during the writing process I feel a character needs to be added, I add them and move on, but that is my sporadic writing style which works for me. That may not work for you, which is absolutely fine. The only thing you absolutely need is a well thought out protagonist. Once you have created one that lines up with the intentions of your tale, you are good to start braiding. That’s About It your story can be as rich or as sparse in characters as you would like. Bear in mind, the longer the story, the more characters you will need. The more informed you are about the types of characters that can be used, the stronger and more dynamic your story will be. That’s about it, my friends. Thank you for having me! Let me know down in the comments below what you thought. Also, what is your favorite character to write and why? See You Later!

– A Ghost Author, Lex Laine

About Lexi:

Lexi Laine is a super quirky and introverted nanny who loves to kick back and relax with her kittens and boyfriend as she enjoys an episode or two of Supernatural. While her day job is being a fantastic nanny to the best kiddo in Raleigh, her real passion is re-introducing people to the world in unique ways through her writing.
Thank you for joining us for this week’s Ghost Authors. Leave us a comment below and tell us what you thought. This week’s guest writer was Lex Laine. You can follow her on social @theCrazyFork. Give us some love and share this post if it helped you in your writing. Farewell until next week, and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

Written by: Lex Laine

Produced by: Bethany Lord

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