Thursday, May 6, 2010

Your Story People

For the month of May, I thought for the writing tips we'd discuss your story people--your characters.

Creating characters to people your story can be a bit intimidating. You don't want stick figures numbly walking through your plot just doing what you want them to do. Don't get me wrong you need control, but there's a trick to it. And it has to do with characterization and building believable characters readers will see as three-dimensional. They can't be all good, nor can they be all bad.

There are specific points to cover while creating a character, and we'll talk about one each week:

* breathing life into your characters
* giving your characters knowledge
* making your characters appealing
* controlling your characters.

Today we'll tackle breathing life into your characters.
In life no two people are alike, so it should be with your characters. All of the characters in your book should have a life of their own. They walk differently, talk differently, and think differently. It's the differences that set characters apart. You need to make certain that when a particular character is on stage that your reader will know who he/she is. To do this you must:

1. give your character a commanding presence
2. make sure his/her presence fits the role
3. determine whether your character complements other characters
4. give your character appropriate identifiers that fit him/her.

Giving your character a commanding presence means to give them a trait to be remembered. i.e. busybody, shy, outgoing, rude, fun-loving, etc.

Making sure your character's presence fits the role means to make sure you don't have a main character who is rude and suddenly he becomes very thoughtful with no motivation.

Determining whether your main character complements other characters means to make sure the commanding presence of your characters aren't the same. You shouldn't have four shy characters. Remember contrast makes characters memorable.

Giving your characters appropriate identifiers means to have their actions fit them. i.e. a shy character may hide her face behind a lock of hair, bite her lip, or chew her fingernails.

Can you think of other ways to breath life into your characters?
I'm sure I've only scratched the surface. 


  1. Give your characters a detailed background.

  2. Hm, yes. I need to work on this for some of my characters.

  3. I'm glad you signed into my blog as a follower, and glad I found your blog.

    I like what you've outlined here for character development. A few years ago when I was trying to write several screenplays - still trying, I love this medium - it was Syd Field who said to write a character synopsis of every character. As Diane Wolfe says, do a detailed background. In script writing terms, it's writing a back story. It's also writing everything the characters like and dislike etc etc. This way you really get to know them before you even beginning putting them into "action."

    Excellent post. It got me back into this mode of thinking/creating.