Pantsing Fantasy: Generating Ideas: Character

Hey! Thanks for joining me for the next section of Pantsing Fantasy.

Today, I want to dig into characters a bit. Characters are the reason anyone gives a crap about your book. If your readers don’t feel connected or invested in your characters, it’s going to be hard for them to enjoy the book and they may not even finish it.

So, you know that characters are paramount and you have a great character in mind. You know her name. You know what he looks like. You know she’s got an awesome story.

The only problem is that you don’t know what that story IS yet.

As I said last week, that’s totally fine, because you’re pantsing it. You are learning the story right along with your character. If you don’t know where to start, just take your character for a walk and look around. See what world is like where your character is, and then, you know, get your character into some trouble.

As the story grows and develops, you’ll figure out exactly where it’s supposed to go and the story this character wants to tell. It’s fine to just wander around with a character for a little while and see if anything interesting happens.

A few years back, I was in a fantasy writers group and they were planning to put together a short story anthology. Of course I wanted in, so I thought and thought and finally, a name came to me.

Tobias Snow.

This was during Game of Thrones time, but I hadn’t yet started watching it. And I wouldn’t watch GoT for nearly two years. Anyway, I wrote a short story about Tobias Snow, a guy who, as several people told me, reminded them a lot of Jon Snow (again, total coincidence because I had NO idea who that guy was). And now that I HAVE seen GoT, I totally see where they’re coming from. Hilarious.

My story didn’t make the anthology, but then it grew and is now part of my fantasy series about Tamerna. I think it will settle in as book 3. Or maybe be tacked onto the end of the book 2 I started writing during NaNo2018. I don’t know yet.

The point is that I started with a character and from that character came the story. I didn’t know anything but the name and what the name generated inside my head about this guy. His life and his story grew from his name and I followed along, documenting it.

I want to offer a word of caution, though. Just because you have a character-based story doesn’t mean you can go totally lame on the plot. Therefore, in your edits (because that’s where the REAL pantsing magic is), the plot needs to be tweaked and tugged and pushed around until it’s a really compelling plot. Not many people want to read a dull story about Tobias Snow (or whatever) and how he derps around from here to there.

No, they want to read a compelling story of Tobias Snow and how he became the legend he is today. That all comes later in the editing. But for now, we’re just at the beginning, so we need to follow him around for a while and see where it leads.


Have you ever written a story from a vague notion of a character? Tell me about it in the comments!

If not, try writing a short story based on this character: Regada Del’Lagio, a fearless pirate captain with a penchant for collecting teeth from captains from ships that have been raided by Regada’s crew.