There are no shortcuts in writing, but there are some jump starters. For writing itself there are prompts to catapult you into a piece. There are character development apps to help get you started with characters. These apps ask you for a few characteristics and generate a character sketch. For example, I used one to create a man named Brett. Brett is in his fifties, divorced with two kids. He is a cop and lives in a cottage in a small town. There is a sentence to indicate that he is very smart, comes from a working-class background and went to public school. There are other one sentences used to give more information, but this is enough to explain the use of apps to create characters.
What I do with this is generate some random characters. Give them a name and then expand them a little with a physical description. This is how I add characters to my database. Let’s say I want to promote Brett to a more prominent role than the cop on the beat who passes through a scene. I ask myself his exact age, then I use a small program I wrote to give him a birthday and work out his astrological sign to give me some more details of his personality. I name his two kids, Mike and Barry. They live with his ex-wife Anne, but he sees them regularly. He and Anne drifted apart to the point where divorce was the next logical steps. They were more roommates than lovers at that point. The boys were in their teens. Since they live in a small town, Brett and Anne meet often and greet each other as friends would. Brett’s parents, Kyle and Wynona live in the same small town. They get along with their ex-daughter-in-law and worry about Brett being lonely. Brett attended the same high school where his sons go now.
That’s what I do. I create the character by answering a few questions or I use the random feature to generate a character. I don’t stop there, though. I take the character sketch the app gave me and expand on it until I have a well-rounded character, who can interact with my main characters and appear as real as they do. This keeps me from generating stereotypic characters for my background characters. I use an app called Character-Creator to generate the characters. I have an android tablet so I found it in the google play store. I put them into my character database until I need one to use. Then I just take the bare bones the app gives me and develop the character into one who walks, talks, and breathes. So don’t be afraid to use these apps. Just don’t rely on them alone to create a character or you will end up with a paper doll.
Play with the app. Generate a character or two. Expand them into real people and put them in a story. See where they go. The results may surprise you. Remember, what I got on Brett just now came from five short sentences in the app.