Character Creation Exercise

So I play a little game called Dungeons & Dragons (heard of it?) which can be either an amazingly fun or horrifyingly dull experience based on who plays with you. One of my favourite parts of D&D is character creation, where you get to build your own character from the ground up. I think I actually started playing D&D before I started writing, which leads me to wonder if I didn’t get into writing because of D&D. Running a game in D&D is basically the same as writing a novel – you lay out the plot, the characters, the conflicts, the rewards, and then you play out the story as your fellow D&D players help you fill out all the details.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. The point is that D&D introduced me to a method of character creation that, with a little tweaking, works great for authors trying to come up with new characters. All you need is a basic six-sided die (like the one in the picture above), a sheet of paper, a pencil, and the instructions I’m about to give you.

This basically works like a quiz, except you use the dice to choose your answer randomly. So, each question has a series of answers from 1-6. If you roll a 1, then your answer is #1. If you roll a 3, your answer is #3, etc. Record your answers on the paper so you don’t forget what you rolled. You can come up with some very interesting characters this way, because you never know what combinations you’ll end up with, and then you have to work out a back story that explains how the character ended up the way they did. Even if you don’t use this character in a story, it’s still fun to do the exercise and just see what ridiculous characters you can come up with.

Ready? Okay, go!

Where is my character from?

  1. Medium-sized city
  2. Cozy hamlet
  3. Isolated village
  4. Wilderness
  5. Sprawling metropolis
  6. Exotic locale

What is my character’s family like?

  1. Large family
  2. Only child
  3. Orphan
  4. One parent living, one dead
  5. Nuclear family
  6. Adopted family

What is my character’s favourite activity?

  1. Reading
  2. Sports
  3. Fighting
  4. Networking
  5. Intellectual pursuits (math, science, etc.)
  6. Breaking the rules

What is my character’s goal in life?

  1. Wealth
  2. Fame
  3. Love
  4. Relaxation
  5. Accomplish something great
  6. No goal

How is my character’s love life?

  1. Married
  2. Divorced
  3. Recently broken-up
  4. Unrequited love
  5. Single
  6. Complicated

What is my character’s spiritual belief?

  1. Monotheistic
  2. Polytheistic
  3. Atheistic
  4. Agnostic
  5. Spiritual, but no organized religion
  6. Formerly religious, but lost the faith

What is my character’s personality?

  1. Optimistic
  2. Curious
  3. Easily angered
  4. Compassionate
  5. Apathetic
  6. Nervous

What is my character’s worst memory?

  1. Death of a loved one
  2. Mugged/attacked
  3. Betrayed
  4. Loss of honour/social standing
  5. Natural disaster
  6. Abandoned

How does my character react in a crisis?

  1. Panics
  2. Keeps a level head
  3. Looks to others for direction
  4. Is only concerned with himself/herself
  5. Freezes
  6. Takes the lead

What is my character’s most prized possession?

  1. Book
  2. Vehicle
  3. Animal
  4. Weapon
  5. Trinket of sentimental value (e.g. locket, comb, etc.)
  6. Money

You’re done! Congratulations!

You have officially created a character. Now you need to figure out why they are the way they are. For example, I will go back and do the exercise, and share with you my findings. Hang on, let me find a die …

Okay, so my dice rolls are: 4, 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 6, and 2. What does that mean for my character? For ease, we’ll say it’s a she.

She was born in the wilderness. She comes from a large family. She enjoys playing sports. Her goal is the acquisition of wealth. She’s divorced. She’s agnostic and apathetic. Her worst memory is being betrayed. She takes the lead in a crisis, and her most prized possession is a vehicle.

Now I take my answers and connect the dots. She was born in a remote location to a large family, so she comes from a large clan of traditionally-minded, down-to-earth country folk. She’s very athletic, because she loves sports. Her favourite sport is mountain biking, and she loves her bike above all else. She was married, but her husband betrayed her, and she’s apathetic to life in general because of it. However, she’s also very strong-willed, and wants to get ahead in life by accruing a large sum of money. From here, I extrapolate. Why does she want money? Perhaps her loving, down-to-earth family is in some sort of financial crisis, and she needs to help them before the whole family goes under. Or, maybe she is a professional mountain biker, and wants to win a competition and therefore the championship purse. Because of her apathy, she’s probably feeling very lost after her husband’s betrayal, and therefore has trouble connecting with people or opening herself up to the idea of dating again.

I’ll probably throw away this character. She doesn’t strike me as the kind of character I would spend time writing a proper story about. But you get the point!

Now go forth, create a character, and let me know in the Comments how it goes 🙂

Humorous meme of the day:

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Character Creation Exercise

  1. Great advice!

  2. Great exercise Michelle! Thanks for sharing. I will have to use this in the future when I’m writing a story other than memoir.

  3. Candace Knoebel

    Love this! Very creative and FUN way to create a character. Who’d have thunk it? Dungeons and Dragons lol. Can’t say I’ve played it, but now I’m thinking I need to! Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Thanks for commenting! If you Google “character creation D&D”, you get linked to dozens of sights with exercises way more in depth than the one I’ve made up here 🙂

  4. This is really great. Thank you!

  5. Cute idea. Make sure you change it up! In this scenario, your character will never be from a broken home. She won’t live in the burbs. She can never strive for spirituality, she can’t ever be a carpenter, etc. In the end, the mountain biking and the husband who betrayed her are the personal touches that came from what you wanted to write about in the first place. Trust your feelings.

  6. Pingback: Monday Fun — Random Name/Plot/Place Generator « Michelle Proulx Official

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