Friday, February 8, 2013

Justina Ireland's Woefully Unorthodox Mostly Foolproof Character Creation Process

So, I‘ve been thinking about writing lately and I’ve also been watching a LOT of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  If you don’t know who TMNT are, then your life is woefully incomplete.
No judgment, just a statement of sad fact.
Anyway, the Ninja Turtles (as they are informally called) were a group of ordinary box turtles that got hit with this Ooze (science, not magic) and mutated into humanoid turtle creatures.  Their adoptive father, Splinter, was a Japanese warrior who mutated into a rat humanoid.  And there are a whole slew of other characters that are either quirky New Yorkers (because all New Yorkers are QUIRKY!) or mutants or aliens or some combination of the three.

All caught up? Okay, so back to my point…
There are four turtles and they’re named after Renaissance Era painters (to keep it classy): Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Rafael.  But more than that, the four turtles represent the four main hero archetypes. No seriously. I told you this had to do with writing.
So lemme break it down for you:
Donatello: He’s smart and resourceful, but maybe not the best fighter.  He tries to think his way out of a tight spot. Donatello type MCs include Bitterblue from Kristin Cashore’s BITTERBLUE, Bruce Banner (but not the Hulk), and just about every main character in a mystery.  These types of MCs can be overly analytical, so they can come across as awkward and will have problems with relationships.  Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is a perfect Donatello.
Michelangelo: He’s hapless and caring, and although he makes a lot of mistakes, his intentions are good.  He usually has to depend on one of his brothers to save him, but it’s okay because he’s so lovable and kind. Michelangelo type MCs include Zara from Carrie Jones’ NEED series and Sailor Moon. I don’t tend to read a lot of these kinds of characters, so maybe someone can think of more MCs that fit this description? 
Leonardo: He’s the standard hero with no deviations (ha, statistics humor!)  He always does the right thing no matter what, and his crises of faith have more to do with his fear of having done the wrong thing than anything else.  Leonardo type MCs include Captain America and a ton of other characters I haven’t read because they tend to be really boring.  I like my MCs to have a little dirt on them.
Rafael:  He’s your average bad ass.  He’s smart mouthed and probably the best fighter on the team.  He can be crass and insensitive, but who cares?  He gets the job done and he makes us laugh while he’s doing it.  Standard Rafael types include: Tony Stark, any Bruce Willis character, and really just about any BAMF.  Rafaels are the characters you love to root for.
So, I know you’re wondering:  what does this have to do with writing?  Well, it’s easy.  Any main character can be created by mixing and matching the TMNT.  Seriously, give it a try.
For example:
Want a Katniss? A scoop of Rafael, dash of Leonardo, pinch of Michelangelo, tiny sprinkle of Donatello.
Captain Kirk? Two big scoops of Rafael, dash of Leonardo.
Mr. Spock? Big scoop of Donatello, dash of Leonardo.
For my main character, Amelie, from Vengeance Bound?  Big scoop Rafael, dash of Donatello.
You’re welcome.

*Results not guaranteed

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I'm using that for the next book! It does, indeed, seem foolproof. Although... I think April O'Neil has to fit in there somewhere. Love your post!