Is it best to create bespoke and ready to go characters or should they grow organically?

This is a question I have asked myself often.  When writing my characters, I try to get into their heads, understand their motivations, what drives them on etc…   This is something I’ve always found quite easy, I’m the sort of person that when playing role play games on consoles, such as the Elder Scrolls games, I come up with a bit of background beyond what the game dictates.  It’s not something that I have ever found difficult and it helps me to come up with what are (I hope) believable characters, with believable motivations and the like.

This has a downside however.

Sometime last year, I was writing a short story set in the fantasy world I have created for the Brogan series, it was based around a character that is briefly in the first book.  As I am intending to have the character feature a bit more I wanted to write a prequel story, something to give him a bit of background and expand on his character.  I had always intended for him to feature a little more in later books, just not so much in the second book.  But what I wrote was intense, it really put me through the wringer and I had to take a little break before getting back into my writing.

I prefer to let characters grow organically, let circumstance dictate their development, decide on the spare of the moment what I think is most in character.  However sometimes a character just needs to be created from scratch, you don’t have time to develop them organically because they’re not going to be around long enough.  It could be because they are only required to serve a purpose, they do their thing and either move on or die.  As tempting as it is to keep every character around, some are just supporting characters and nothing more, you can’t keep them all.

But then, every now and then a character comes along, you’re not intending on them to be in it as much as they end up being.  It could be that they fill a hole in the story that you previously hadn’t realised was there.  These are the characters that grow organically, they create themselves, form their own motivations and you end developing their characters on the fly.  There is of course the tragic sort of character, the kind of character that you intend to go onto great things and have all sorts of plans.  Then you change a bunch of things for the benefit of the wider narrative and suddenly, they’re no longer relevant, then you need to work out what to do with them.

It’s a bit of Gladiator moment, thumbs up they live and fade into obscurity, thumbs down they die.  Either way their use the story is over and even if they do live, they seldom feature as the story progresses.  It’s a shame as well, some of those characters were good, I loved them; they just didn’t serve a purpose anymore.

Okay, so I waffled a bit there.  But it was my first major blog post in a while so you’ll have to forgive me on that score.  As usual, feel free to comment below if you have questions, critique or anything in general really.

Peace out folks, and have a lovely day.