Character Creation, Story Concept, and Creating Outlines

Updated: 2 days ago

As more time passes and I have been writing longer, I have learned that there is a certain order to which I write. Where outlines used to intimidate me, I know find them very easy to create. However, I have put into place a system that I hope will help you if you struggle with your own writing process.

There are certain things I need to have in place when I first come up with a story. I must have the names of my characters, if there is a killer, who is he killing and why. I almost always have my opening scene and my ending scene. I also need a basic story concept. Without that basic concept, I may have an idea of my characters, but I can’t flush them out until I know where my story is heading.

Getting these things to come together, can be overwhelming. I have put together a series of posts that I hope will help you with your character creation, developing your story concept, and ultimately creating an entire story outline. Several birds, one big ass stone.

So what is my first step? Story Concept.

What is a story concept? It's the story idea. Where, What, Who, When, and Why; that basically sums up the premise.

  • Basic story idea: What genre is it? If it’s a crime fiction, who is the killer and what is his motive.

This is a major factor in the overall concept of not only the characters but the story as well. You need to know where your ideas need to travel. Doesn’t matter the genre, you just need to have a clear understanding of this.

  • Where and when it takes place--city/state/country/season.

This gives an immediate setting but also can help set up various traits your characters will have. If it takes place in NYC is your character a native or from Georgia? Pinpointing this can help narrow in on your character’s personality.

  • Length of story

Is this a short story, novella, or full-length novel? Deciding on the length will help guide your story conception and will help determine overall character development. It will help with how many characters need to be introduced and help you narrow in on who is essential to your main character.

  • Is this a series or one story?

If this is not a series - you may find you have one or two supporting characters and what I like to call flybys…these characters pop in to add something to the story - move it forward, or you learn about the main character, but they don’t have a profound importance to the story, however they are needed.

If it’s a series - you need to create characters that will be long-term, who will continue throughout the series. How many characters will go from book to book...what are their roles in relation to your main character. This can be tricky. You now have to plot out a basic concept for your entire series, that will allow for more stories to develop. Don’t let it scare you, just use these same steps in a broader fashion.

2nd Step: Creating the cast of characters. (This includes all characters for the given story, supporting, main, flyby, etc.)

By having a basic story concept, I can now start to look at the characters I will need to help bring my conception to life.

  • Names

Research the names you choose online. Making sure there are no glaring similarities to other well-known book characters or persons.

  • Physical traits

Hair color, hairstyle, eyes--color, shape, brooding, teeth- straight, white, crooked, missing, or rotten, height, weight, muscles, skinny, sexy, ordinary, odd. You get it.

  • Mental traits

Cunning, genius, average intelligence, quick-thinking, slow-thinking, obnoxious, arrogant, prickish, smug, rational, irrational, non-intuitive, observant, inattentive, inquisitive, nosy, dense, selfish, caring.

  • Quirks or habits or vices

Gum chewer, chain smoker, drinker, OCD, always twirls a ring or watch, runs hands through hair, pulls on hair, blows nose using one finger. (I have never been able to do that, but my step father was the king.)

  • Background

Atheist, Catholic, Agnostic, vegan, married, divorced, single, gay, transgender, a former priest, cab driver, adopted, abused as a child, raped, or former comedian.

Pick these carefully. Some transgressions are simply harder to accept. Let's say you make your character a reformed pedophile, you will have an immediate uphill battle to win over your audience.

3rd Step: Combining your character creations and your basic concept to create your story outline.

  • This last step will tie everything together. I will show you how easy it is to take the characters you have just created and the story concept you used to do it, and build your entire story outline.

So how do you come up with your characters and your story concept? Do you start with the character; what he looks like, his traits, or do you come up with your story first? Either way is fine. It really comes down to personal choice.

Over the next several blog posts, (the next one will drop on Thursday), I am going to go over each of these steps in great length. I will start with a new story concept, and we will take it from the beginning to the end. You will see first-hand how I use these very steps to create an exciting read.

See you Thursday.

I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories. If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.

You can find me on Pinterest, Amazon, and Facebook.


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