So I have been in talks with a dear close personal friend of mine and they are always asking me questions about my writing. I have NO problem with them doing this. I like sharing my views, tactics, and techniques (if any) where my writing is concerned. Lately this particular friend has a desire to write again and looks to me for whatever kind of insight I can provide just from my own experience, which I am happy to oblige.
One of the topics we’ve discussed is how do I make my characters different from each other from project to project. This is a very good question, especially since it’s not something I think about doing. But now a closer look at the question and we’ll see it’s not just how do you make your characters different in the story from one another. It’s also how do you make them different from each other in the story but also different from the ones you’ve written about before. So we’re not just dealing specifically with story but also between stories.
I admit I had to really think about this question posed to me. How did/do I do that? This caused to retrospect on the characters I’ve created and their stories. I think therein lies the answer. Their story.
When I look back over the stories these characters are involved in each story has a different set of circumstances, situations and events. Each main character has something different to achieve. How does this striving for this achievement affect them? Are they dealing with a moral issue and if so how to they act/react to obtain the desired result? Maybe it’s not moral but an ethical issue or both. Maybe a life changing event has happened to the main character. How do they deal with it based on fear, motivation, passion and surrounding? Based on who this character is (their passion, what motivates them, what fears they have, setting/location) has a baring on how they deal with these situations. Passion, motivation, fears and surroundings are different for story and each main character. So each main character will be different in that way since they should act and react to those things. Am I making sense?
But now how to stay away from creating characters with the same passions, motivations, and fears or even locations? I believe that’s where composition comes into play. I try to make sure all my characters are composites of people I have seen, come into contact with, observed, or even wondered about. I try out different surroundings, although I try to stay close to home (unless we’re out in space). If you let your mind wander on a character, I think you’ll find some interesting things about your character.
Now sometimes it is hard to keep characters different from story to story, especially when writing about a general surrounding like space/outer space or space sagas. Again, I look to who is this character? Why are they the way they are? How are they justified in their own mind to be who they are? How do other characters perceive them?
Other character perceptions are important too. When I look back on the minor or secondary characters, they help to flesh out the main character even more through interactions, conversations, opinions and judgements. They play off each other.
So for me personally, how I make my characters different from each other in each story is: their story, answering what makes them who they are (passion, motivation, fear, surrounding) and their allies/enemies.