This last summer, my little brother and I were in the neighboring city getting lunch at a Subway. I had been thinking about taking a tour of a fire station, but didn’t know whether we had to schedule one or if we could just walk in.
Lucky for me, right in front of us in line was a fireman. I asked him and he said to drop by; if anyone was there they’d show us around, he said.
So after lunch we dropped by the station, but were turned down because everyone was on scene of a house fire. So we tried the next day.
It was mid-morning, and the secretary paged the Lieutenant, who gladly showed us around the station, ambulance, and fire truck.
At the end of the tour as we were leaving, my little brother pointed to a little cabinet that looked slightly unusual and he asked what it was.
“Oh, that’s just a cabinet, for storage.” The lieutenant replied, “But there’s a guy who works here who’s short and kind of annoying, so we call it his ‘office.'”
We left the station and enjoyed the rest of our summer, until fall came around. I was at a high school football game and I noticed the paramedics attending were getting something to eat. I recognized one of them to be the fireman I’d spoken to in Subway. He was eating so I went to ask his short partner a question.
When I got up to him and he answered me, it was like a little light bulb came on in my head. The man I was talking to was short. I could kind of see how he could be annoying.
He was the fireman with the cabinet office that the lieutenant had told us about.
Name: Kathreen Rainfield
Hair Style: short pixie cut
Scars, tattoos, piercings, etc? None.
Contacts, glasses, or no? 20/20
Clothing? What’s their style? When she’s not in uniform, jeans and a t-shirt.
Are their clothes always sexy, showing off their figure? Or would your character be seen in sweats every now and again? She can’t wear sweats around because she lives in the fire station. But she dresses conservatively.
Does your character like to read? Write? Draw? She likes all three. But she’s not very good at drawing.
Skills: writing, first aid, fire fighting
Strengths: she’s strong (physically), she’s good at helping people in medical emergencies
Does your character speak any languages? If so, list them: English
Weakness. It’s important to have these in a character. It’s what gives the story interest. If your character didn’t have any weaknesses, the story would go by without any reader interest/attachment to the character. So, what’s it gonna be? Weakness: She’s terrified of fire and she’s not extremely physically strong so she can’t do as much as she needs to in the firefighting business. Her language learning skills are weak and she’s not very good at expressing herself with words.
Does your character have many friends? A few? Does everyone love him/her even if they are rude? A few. She’s not rude, but she’s friends with her crew.
Let’s play the favorite game:
Books: Ambulance Girl, The Gift Of Fear, To Kill A Mockingbird
Movies: The Matrix
Anime: Angel Beats
Manga: Lucky Star
Color: black and red
Style: Goth loli
Videogame: Halo Reach
Now write a short history on your character:
Kat’s family was killed in a house fire when she was seven years old. She grew up with her grandparents (now deceased) and became an EMT as soon as she could. Her grandfather had Alzheimer’s and lung cancer, and died almost immediately after she had had a car wreck.
A lot of us like to write–poems, short stories, novels (at least attempts). But none of us want to spend the time editing those stories or studying the grammar that will make our stories flow smoother and become and overall better reading experience.
If you’re like me, short stories are your thing. Maybe a chapter or two, or maybe you actually plan on building off of it for a novel. But the most important thing to a story are its characters. They don’t have to be people. Your character can be the barn that’s been falling apart for fifty years. But that is still a character.
But for now let’s focus on characters of the human type (at least humanoid–fantasy characters work, too.) One of the greatest downfalls many authors and online roleplayers is that their characters are Mary Sues–in other words, they’re characters are just too perfect. They’re good at everything, characters of the opposite gender (or sometimes the same) melt through the cracks when they come in the room, and everybody, everybody, wants their skillz.
There’s plenty of ways to flesh out a good characters and avoid Mary Sue-ing. Here’s a list of questions and basic stats that you can use to flesh out your character and then really make them realistic:
Scars, tattoos, piercings, etc?
Contacts, glasses, or no?
Clothing? What’s their style?
Are their clothes always sexy, showing off their figure? Or would your character be seen in sweats every now and again?
Does your character like to read? Write? Draw?
Does your character speak any languages? If so, list them:
Weakness. It’s important to have these in a character. It’s what gives the story interest. If your character didn’t have any weaknesses, the story would go by without any reader interest/attachment to the character. So, what’s it gonna be? Weakness:
Does your character have many friends? A few? Does everyone love him/her even if they are rude?
Let’s play the favorite game:
Now write a short history on your character:
By looking at this you should have a good idea of who your character is. Want some more help working out the kinks? Post your character sheet in the comments below and I’ll help you fill them out.
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
It was a beautiful day, warm weather, a light breeze, and fluffy clouds dotted the clear blue sky. I wheeled my bike around the back of my house, ready to put it away for the day. My brother faced me, fiddling with the chain on his bike. We had just got back from a ride around town together.
He looked up at me, wiping his hands on his pants, and smearing the dirt from them all over the front of the jeans. He was smiling, and he said something to me, but I didn’t hear it, something behind me monopolized my attention.
Cloaked in black, and carrying a suffocating air of fear and imminent death, a man stood on the roots of our old maple tree, watching us. His feet were bare, the cloak ending just above his ankles. The black cloaks draped over him covered half his face and ended just a little above his wrists, showing just enough skin to reveal the pale, flaking, corpse-like dermis that mirrored myself in some undeniable. . .
“Sis?” My brother snapped me out of my daze, and when I glanced back, the cloaked man was gone as if he had never existed.
I dismissed the man as an illusion of my overactive imagination. But the feeling if fear still lingered by the tree behind our house, so I never let my brother there alone.
The sense of danger leaked into the house through my brother’s window, which gaped open on the back of the house, facing the large tree where shadows roamed and carried nightmares under their wings.
Even though it was only me and my brother at home, I sensed a third presence hanging in the closets, behind every door, under the floorboards, revealing its presence with every creak and moan of the house at night.
Footsteps across the roof, rippling my heart with fear. We were not alone.
Every closed door stared me down with threats of death and of something sinister hiding behind it. Was it the cloaked man? For an illusion, the picture of him in my mind was startlingly, disgustingly clear.
One day I decided to go into the garage. There was a wooden door leading to it in the kitchen, a door that never could stay shut, the latch broken. Always preferring to hang half open as opposed to being fully open or closed, I could not see straight into the garage as it was hidden behind the door.
It was as threatening as any other door, raising goosebumps, the hairs on my neck, and sleepless night all at once. The door creaked a little, as if in protest or warning, as I pulled it open toward me. I really did not expect to see anything, just feel the presence of death and hear the rattling breath, leaving my imagination to its own devices. . .
Standing among the boxes stacked was the cloaked man, mere feet from me, just off the three small steps off leading down into the garage. His head tilted back a little and his mouth opened to speak.
It was as if he had held a knife to my throat, every twitch of his fingers was like he was stringing me up in the gallows, every rattling breath a premonition of premature death. Stumbling back wards, I thrust the door shut angrily, and the door that never opened stayed shut as I fled the house into the bright, bright sunshine filtering through the trees.
The pistol was black, much too large for my hands and too heavy for me to hold up straight, even with both hands. I practiced, aiming at the door but never putting more pressure than a feather on the trigger. I didn’t need holes in everything, just the man that lived in my house with me and my brother, walking the halls at night and breathing on my face.
Would a gun kill him? Someone who moved with the shadows and walked softer than a breeze lifting curtains? I couldn’t shoot a shadow-
“SIS! JUN! COME HERE!” My brother’s voice was so loud it was hoarse, and I ran into his room so fast I must’ve flown. He sounded like he was being murdered, and I was ready to shoot anyone and anything that dared laid its hands on him.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I asked quickly, but no one else was in the room but my brother, deadly pale and trembling. I followed his pointed finger across the room to a mounted metal box on the wall, barely larger than a microwave and previously containing the switchboard for our house.
Instead, two long legs clad in suit pant poked out, twisted and broken, pointing up and a little out from a body that must have been mangled and shoved horribly to fit a grown man (as it appeared to be) in such a tiny box.
My mouth fell open, my hand gripping the pistol fell to my side. I couldn’t kill a dead man. Taking my brother by the hand, I left him in the living room. Without a word I turned to the door, my jaw set and face determined.
The pistol was heavy in my hand, but not as heavy as I knew the garage door would be as I pulled it open.
Maybe the cloaked man wouldn’t be there. Maybe you don’t have to shoot him. Just leave the door closed.
I took a step forward, towards the door.
Leave the door closed. It’s okay, he’s not there, this is all in your imagination, you crazy girl, you’re crazy, so crazy! Nothing’s there!
The sound my foot made upon the floor as I stepped forward once again seemed to echo across the world, through the house, announcing I was approaching.
YOU IDIOT! YOU IDIOT! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! LEAVE THE DOOR CLOSED! LEAVE THE DOOR CLOSED! LEAVE THE DOOR CLOSED!
I approached the door, opened it, and there he was, the cloaked man that stalked me and shoved dead bodies into tiny boxes. Raising the gun, I fired just as the man parted his mouth to speak, hitting him right in the center of the chest.
He gasped, his hood falling back enough I could see his cold gray eyes and the yellow whites surrounding them. His hands hovered over the wound, trembling in shock or pain, as if he was surprised at the cheek of my endeavor, and the swiftness and merciless way in which I carried it out.
Thinking I had won, I lowered the gun, though my finger was still on the trigger. Doubt returned to my heart though, as he glowered at me with eyes so angry they might’ve glowed red. His hands lowered, his lips trembled.
“I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!” He bellowed, lunging for me. His hands grabbed for my neck.
I fired once, twice, three, and then four times more, all too far to the right, missing him and sending my chances of survival farther and farther from my gasp. I forgot to breathe, but I knew that the last bullet had to count, had to kill him. So I took a second to aim, just one second, one second that spelled the end of my life before I could tap the trigger. . .
The man fell backwards, dead, with a hole in his forehead.