Building Characters From The Ground Up- Part 3

Yesterday, I posted about the importance of understanding your character’s personality and how that will have an effect on everything else. In fact, we can think of characters as an onion, and that their personality is the core, and there are multiple layers covering that.

The next aspect of my character that I focus on is their family history and background. For the most part, we don’t have much control over the things that happen to us (especially when we are young). We obviously can’t choose our parents, siblings, socio-economic status, family deaths, and a number of other things. All of these things also have an impact on our lives and who we are.

It is important to understand where our characters come from. So here is a bit about Margit Lindner (from my current WIP) and her past:

Margit’s father, Frederick Lindner, was raised in the working class. While not poor, he was never wealthy. Margit’s mother on the other hand, was from a very wealthy family. While Margit’s grandparents never made a fuss about the marriage, Margit’s uncle was always less than approving. Eventually, Frederick took his young wife to California in search of wealth. Margit was born there. Eventually, Frederick turned desperate to make his fortune and involved himself in a number of schemes. Margit’s mother moved her and Margit back to Pittsburgh and resided with Margit’s grandfather, and uncle who would inherit the estate on her grandfather’s death. Margit grew up hearing little good about her father, and never had to worry much about anything. Growing up seeing her mother’s broken heart never convinced her to pursue marriage.

That is a brief version of the history of Margit’s family up to about the point where the novel starts. While not everything will be explicitly explained, it will all exist in comments that characters make or their attitudes about certain things.

There are a few other facts that I know about Margit. Her name is German, and Margit actually means “Pearl.” This is an intentional name choice that will become relevant in my story.

For many of us, our family creates the experiences that shape us. Oftentimes we value similar things or hold the same things as important. The same is true for our characters.

When you think of these histories, it’s also helpful to think of any particular memories your character might have. Some of these memories but be favorable or they may not. Think of what kind of lasting effects they could have as well.


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