The Craft of Character: Creating a Character from An Idea

NaNoWriMo Course 3, Week 1


Time to claim my beauty sleep. Still got things to do. (12PM)

Assignment Description:

Choose a book or film that you have recently enjoyed, or select a story from mythology. Identify the core desire, need, or ambition in at least two main characters in the book/film/myth. Write one paragraph to familiarize your reader with this context. Then, create a new character based solely on your idea (not on anybody you know from the real or fictional worlds). Make the reader know them. Place them in a social situation with your pre-selected character where they have to exchange conversation related to the identified desire/need/ambition with one or more of the characters in the book or film. Be sure to include telling details. Craft the scene for your reader, using a maximum of 400 words (the introductory paragraph does not count in this word limit, but keep it brief).

Intro Paragraph:

(Arrival, 2016 film)

Alien shells appear in the skies around the world, causing wild speculations from the media and covert operations from the military to kick off in the earnest. Dr. Louise Banks, an expert linguist, is recruited by the military to communicate with the strange creatures, as they have not communicated the purpose of their visit to Earth. Thankfully, the huge seven-legged aliens, dubbed ‘heptapods’, don’t seem hostile—for now. Louise is fascinated with the aliens’ language, and insists that humanity and heptapods should learn from each other from the basics—much to the operation leader’s disdain. She’s working with Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist, in establishing communication with the aliens. Hopefully, they can start talking about alien science when they have better understanding of each other.

The Linguist’s Programmer

395 words

The army man gestures Kelsey to a room shaped by white-and-transparent plastic tarps. She can see Dr. Banks buried behind books and stacks of paper, her reddish-brown hair tied up in a messy ponytail. She thanks her escort; he nods and leaves her in front of Dr. Banks’ office. She knocks the edge of the crowded table, pulling the Doctor from the stacks of paper she is working on.

“Good morning, Dr. Banks,” she says, offering a handshake. “My name is Kelsey Harrison, the programmer tasked to help you write the aliens’ language. It’s really nice to meet you.” She clears her throat. “I’m a fan.”

“Louise, please,” Dr. Banks says, accepting her handshake with a warm smile. “Thank you for your compliment, Kelsey. I heard you’re one of the best at what you do.” She gestures at Kelsey to come inside.

“Have you heard of semasiographic writing?”

Kelsey racks her brain. “I don’t think so,” she says after a while.

“It’s a writing system that conveys meaning instead of representing sound,” Louise says. She takes a large paper with what looks like a circular black ink splotch printed on it from her desk and spreads it out. Several annotations in bright-colored pen mark the features of the splotch.

“The aliens’ language—we’re calling it Heptapod B—is such,” she adds. “What a heptapod says and what it writes are two different things, unlike any human language.”

A man bringing a steaming coffee mug chimes in while he walks into the room. “We have to understand those if we want to talk physics with them,” he says, and offers his hand to Kelsey.

“Hi. Ian Donnelly, theoretical physicist.” Kelsey shakes his hand. “Call me Ian. You’re the programmer, I take it.”

“Yes. Kelsey Harrison, nice to meet you,” she replies. “You’re also working on Heptapod B, Ian?”

“That’s right. It’s certainly a new field for me, but my maths has helped a lot,” he says, sipping his coffee. Louise sighs.

“Well, we’re not going to talk science with them anytime soon,” she laments. “We barely understand them. I’m hoping you can help us with your experience, Kelsey.”

Kelsey stares at the Heptapod B prints on Louise’s desk, trying to wrap her head around this fascinating knowledge. She puts down her backpack on the floor and repositions her glasses.

“Alright,” she says. “I’m ready to learn.”



I love it so much I bought the short story collection book on Periplus using my reserve money as self-reward for completing the courses. Its existence in the vicinity, in turn, helped pushed me through the all-nighter I did for all four assignments of Character Course.

The highly technical terms mentioned here were in the movie; look it up, they’re pretty interesting if you like languages.

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