Creating a great character isn’t anything to do with the character themselves. It isn’t how they dress or look, it isn’t about how you describe them. Creating great characters is 100% based on how they react to others in the story.
Steps in Creating Great Characters.
First you must understand how they interact with the world around them. We are all reactionary creatures. Regardless of how you see yourself, you react to the environment. Even choosing to not react is a reaction in itself. This is where the Empathy Matrix comes in.
Using the Matrix above you can begin to get an understanding of your character and make them real.
There are two ways to use the matrix.
Method one is to put down all the external forces. What they have done previously. What people are saying to them. The world they live in etc. This will tell you the type of person they will be. This will fill in the middle.
The second method is to start with a character in the middle and fill in all the external forces. Working this way will help you develop a story.
If we put the Joker in the middle and start filling in the outside.
We need to establish his sense of chaos, his irrational actions. So what does he think and feel? His thoughts are not rational, he feels separate to humanity. If we look at previous versions of the Joker, he feels he has the right to judge people. We all at times blame the world for our problems. But he takes that to the extreme. He is also made a victim. This pushes him to act.
Based on his feelings of separation we need to have him see things that push him further away from humanity. Since we all want to belong, we need to have him see a world falling to pieces. A world that he feels doesn’t care. A world in decay.
He tries to hold on to hope. But once he starts his change. He joins the chaos with fanatic energy. He decides that he is going to act just like everybody else (or as he sees them). With cruelty and violence. But in his mind it is justified. Because we know based on what he thinks and feels that he is irrational.
What is he hearing? Repeated disinterest. No one is interested in him. His therapist, his mother, people at work (his boss blames him for the sign). He hears that the world doesn’t care. The world doesn’t see him. As part of his change. He is going to make them see him.
Now try reversing this.
If a person that feels loved and goes to church. That sees people acting in kind and caring ways. That has been of service to her community her entire life. That hears only positive things about the world and her future.
Would she be a dysfunctional teenager. Probably not. So if you are going to create a character that is like this. You will need to have a reason. You will need to use the Matrix to find the things that turn her into the dysfunctional person in your story. Then you will have a great character.
This person that grows up in a loving, supportive environment goes bad. Why? That would be interesting. That would have depth. Following this is going to make creating great characters much easier.