Finding a Character with Story

I’m supposed to write up five sentences, two additional ones that expand on the first, five contradictory sentences, and two more that expand on those for three characters in my novel. And snowflakes, was it hard. 

I’m starting to think characters are one of my weaknesses. Not imagining their history or personality or what they look like but creating complex stories about them.

For me, writing five sentences felt more like writing facts. In contrast, the examples showed sentences that exposed charater but also sparked interest (not my interest). But the idea seemed to be to experiment and explore the possibilities of what the sentences could mean. 

Like, if I wrote: He had cyclical health in his youth, so his parents could predict when and how he would get sick. There’s not a lot I’m going to deviate from or be curious about. I know what that means. It may shift in my writing of the story. But this character’s history and who and what he is, at the moment, is pretty set in stone. 

I’ve been learning that maybe imagining the various ways events or characters could evolve is what makes stories strong. Well, that, and also the fact that I’m not very good at character stories. And hence, I’m thinking I don’t make good well rounded characters. This is definitely an aspect I’ll need to work on.

I blame this on consuming too many fairy tales, mythology, epics, and folklore. I can read personality into Red, nameless protagonists, Enkidu, Hanuman, Rostam, Antar, Zaynab, etc because of their reactions, sayings, gestures, and mannerisms. Do modern characters work the same way?

Even if they do, I can’t shake the feeling that if I had to write five sentences about Achilles in five aspects of his life (hobbies, romance, religion, job, health, what have you) they wouldn’t be done in the right way. I could think of sentences but, again, they’d be facts not sentences that may be explored for plot or character complexity. 

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