Creating characters with the help of shining stars and spinning planets © M.C.V.Egan

For writers, many tools can help give depth to our characters, intricacies to the storyline, and shine a light on the settings. I have attended many workshops in the last few years, exploring new angles and techniques to give my characters more depth, my plots more conflict, and my settings more detail.

People are complicated multi-faceted beings; therefore, believable characters need a variety of traits. Settings are more credible when shown, not told; no-one explained that better than Anton Chekov, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”  And then the much needed spicy ingredient to any story that will captivate the reader – CONFLICT.

Many workshops suggested similar techniques to create the characters.

– Interview your character

– Fill out a job application as your character (Please don’t apply for the job, identity theft of a fictional character is bound to be a crime in most countries).

– Write a bio of your character

– Get an image from a magazine or online of how you visualize your character.

If you write, I am sure you have come across the lot, and frankly, they can all be instrumental. I am pretty sure that if you write, you have also come up with your very own unique ways, I know I have.

I use several techniques to get to know my characters, form them, and give them traits before I infuse them into a storyline.  I love to pretend they are my invisible friends (yes, I did have those when I was a kid) and allow them to hang out with me from time to time. I have used the above techniques; after all, why attend a workshop and not use what you are taught, right?

I do have a favorite technique, one, to be honest, I thought was all mine, and then I googled and found books on the subject! You see, I am an amateur, fascinated by but quite inexpert at Astrology. I also think it is a tool that can be used very effectively by any writer, even those who never before thought to read a horoscope. Still, surely at some point in life, most of us do check the paper to see what a Cancer, Libra or Scorpio should expect.

As one studies the various signs and planets in Astrology, they have keywords and traits; again I am a writer and NOT a professional Astrologer, as such I am not going to go through each sign and describe it; anyone can find that easily today in countless sites or books. To keep this simple, I will stay with just one sign.

I’ll take the very first sign of the Zodiac; Aries Assertive a go-getter, a mover, and shaker, fearlessly forging ahead, a warrior. Okay, that gives you a great basis for traits, now famous Aries in history Thomas Jefferson (April 13) and Leonardo Da Vinci (April 15) and Adolph Hitler (April 20). Nice combination right? Well, every sign has them, traits that can be used for good or evil.

There are countless ways you can use astrology to develop a character, once you give a character a sig you can always read their horoscope. Bad day for Aries as the ruling planet Mars enters… well again we do not need to be master Astrologers, but now you can imagine your character on a very bad day he/she cannot control.

Astrology books are filled with descriptions of the typical physique of any sign, in regards to Aries books will have variants of similar descriptions; strongly defined facial lines, bony structure, triangular shape of a face, and sharp eyes.

Here is the beauty of using Astrology as a tool, as we are all unique we may be reading the very same description and visualizing very different characters. That being said since I have dabbled in astrology for several decades I can play with birth charts and create more defined characteristics that way.

If you are not interested in learning Astrology in any great depth the solution is simply look up famous people in the sign of Aries. That way with a long list you can pick and choose the traits of the famous. For example, the prototypical mad scientist/inventor out to rule the world could be a combination Of Leonardo Da Vinci and Adolph Hitler. Just imagine how many combinations are out there for you to blend and create.

With this fun and simple tool, a writer can easily give a character a distinct look, by choosing any physical traits of famous Arian traits (not to be confused with Hitler’s Aryans) and creating the look you need. Remember Anton Chekov and don’t tell the reader the character has thick hair have him or her struggle in some way with it; brushing it, untangling it.

Creating a personality with the traits described in numerous site you are bound to give the reader a deep and complex individual. This can easily be done again by looking up famous people born under a certain sign, and they need not be historical figures; I just googled famous actresses born in Aries and came up with Emma Watson, Kristen Stewart, Reese Witherspoon, and Elle Fanning. If you Google that as well however you might find that Marilyn Monroe with Venus in Aries (some in Gemini) is the image that pops up the most.

Venus brings me to the spinning planets. That is something we are all familiar with and even if Astrology is not to your liking, another brilliant tool is tapping into the music of Gustav Holst; THE PLANETS, spend time listening to MARS, the Bringer of War ( http://youtu.be/2BpEH0LFlMY ) and the Arian traits of aggression and war are sure to flow through your mind! Also, look up Martian traits that should be compatible and complementary to the Aries ones.

Gustav Holst not only will give you beautiful writing music but just the title of each piece will enhance any Astrological traits for the signs they rule. The Sun rules Leo and of course, those traits shine. The moon rules the sign of Cancer and the traits of the moon vary from light to dark. Pluto was discovered before Holst died and in modern Astrology is used to rule Scorpio, but Mr. Holst chose not to write a piece for it, so enjoy the seven.

  1. Mars, the Bringer of War (Aries and Scorpio)
  2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace (Taurus)
  3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger (Gemini)
  4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (Sagittarius)
  5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (Capricorn)
  6. Uranus, the Magician (Aquarius)
  7. Neptune, the Mystic (Pisces)
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