When many people start to write a fantasy novel, they’ll focus on the characters they like. That’s great, and you could go a long way with that. Perhaps you’ve already got a great character in mind, and maybe even a lot of details about them.
When I write a fantasy novel’s characters, I usually start with a broad character template. Let’s start in the West.
Characters in the West
The West is poor and everyone there suffers. They all want to get a Visa at the end of the year, but most don’t and never will. I’ve already got a few character ideas, but I don’t have names for them. Here they are:
- Visa Shark;
- Slum Rat;
- Slum Rat’s Family.
Those are pretty broad. Let’s flesh them out a bit.
This will be one of my main characters. I’d imagine it’s a boy or young man, perhaps 15 to 20 years old. Remember, the life expectancy in the West is only about 40 years, so they’re already middle-aged.
This boy has no prospects. His family is poor, and always has been. His father was killed in the slums or during one of the Visa fights that happen each year around Drubeck. His mother is still alive, but crippled or sick or something. She’s not much help, and probably only holds the character back.
He really wants to get over to the East, but he also wants to help the West. He’s a bit naive, that’s for sure. The story will largely be seen through his eyes. When it comes to writing a fantasy novel, you’ve got to get your main character pretty quickly. This is mine, and he’s still very rough around the edges. I’ll have to polish him up in the coming weeks, really flesh him out.
I imagine this character to be the Slum Rat’s brother. He’s older, has been around the block a few times, as well as to the school of hard knocks. He’s tough, and has few feelings or emotions left other than hate, anger, and greed. He’s long ago given up any hope of getting a Visa, and now lives off of others’ hopes, dreams, and fears.
He’s corrupt, and will sell his mother out and probably brother too at the first chance he gets. But is there still a kernel of goodness left inside of him? That will be a major plot point when I start writing a fantasy novel.
Someone has to rail against the Visa System and what it’s doing to the West, and the East. That person is the Preacher. He’s the type to stand atop his soapbox and spout off to anyone who’ll stop and listen. And more and more people are starting to do that. The Visa fights that break out are happening earlier each year, and they’re claiming more lives.
And all the while, conditions in the West get worse and worse for those living there. This character represents the conscious of the West, and what he says will impact the main characters a lot.
Someone’s got to be in charge in the West, and this will probably be the Mayor. I don’t know yet what the exact governmental structures are in both the East and the West, but I have a feeling that the mayor of the major city will in effect be the boss of that side of the continent.
So our Mayor will probably hail from Finnegal. He oversees the city and ensures that it can run as smoothly as possible. His job’s not easy, and certainly thankless. He might have even started out with good intentions, but I have a feeling he’s given in to corruption to some extent. He no doubt lines his own pockets, but I have a feeling that there’s still hope within him.
If the mayor is the boss of the major city of Finnegal, then the General is probably the boss of Drubeck. It’s his job to keep the Visa Sharks in line when the Visa Lottery takes place each year. It’s also his job to quell the fights that break out. He’s a hard man, a scarred man, and one that is really powerless. I’m not sure what the exact military establishment is like in the two countries yet, but I have a feeling that in the West it’s pretty shabby.
Slum Rat’s Family
I’d imagine there’s a small sister that mainly supports the mom. The young boy, our main character, is old enough to try and find a way for himself in the world. His older brother is already too far gone into the corrupt ways. The family will be small, and probably won’t be talked about much.
Well, there you have some characters. It’s not that hard to write a fantasy novel with good characters if you take the time to outline them and give them each a brief description like I’ve just done. It will really help you identify any holes in your world, like the military and government in my case, and fill them up with details. Next time I’ll talk about the characters in the East and how you can write a fantasy novel with multiple settings.