You’re writing a story and you need a character to throw in for extra depth. Maybe you even need a main character – you’ve got a story idea, but no one to live it. But don’t worry – chances are that you’ve got a database of ready-made characters, with names, families, backstories, and much much more.
Where? If you’ve ever written something that just fell apart into a horrible mess, such as a NaNo novel or even a particularly bad short story, characters probably weren’t the thing that sunk it. In fact, you might have even had a great character or two, whose sparkle just couldn’t keep the plot alive. But they can be saved – like a heart transplant, taken from one dying body and giving life to a new one.
Two of my NaNo novels were complete train wrecks, un-editable. One might work out, but that’s another story. Anyway, I needed a name for the main character in a short story I’m working on. I pulled her name, and the names of a couple of her friends, from my 2009 novel. I’ve never liked thinking up names, and this made it a whole lot easier.
Names and characters aren’t the only thing you can borrow. My 2008 NaNo (I had a bad streak) had some good ideas; I just overweighted it with about 20 different unneccessary plots trying to reach 50000 words. So I pulled out the main plot and created a short story, one I liked enough to send into a magazine. Of course, that resulted in the rejection letter I posted earlier, but lots of people get rejected at first. I’ll keep trying, keep writing, and keep recycling. That’s what you’ve got to do.