Realistic and lovable characters are a major part of good fiction. Character creation can be one of the most challenging parts of writing, and a lack of in-depth characterization can completely ruin a great plot. Below are a few simple and basic tips to help you create solid characters, with depth and personality, that add to the story-line and help to make your piece as close to perfect as possible.
Quick Tips for Character Creation
- Every character in your story needs to have a story themselves, you don’t need to spend hours getting to know your secondary characters but you should have a basic outline for everyone involved in the tale. Make notes of important information such as name, age, job, social status, gender, relationship status, and any other relevant basic personal information. Rule of thumb; know your secondary characters like you know your acquaintances, and your main characters as you know your best friends.
- Along with their story each character needs a goal. This goal may be something simple or a large mission to save the world, either way this goal needs to be clear and have purpose behind it.
- To tie together the above factors of a story and a goal, your characters need to have a history. Even the simplest of characters has to have a past that somehow connects them to what is happening in the present moment. The characters of a story are often connected through an intricate spiderweb. John may know Sheila through her cousin Paul, who has been murdered by Ben, and John might be Ben’s Uncle. Whatever the case each of your characters has to have at least a slight past and some form of connection to the story that you are writing. They need a reason for being where they are, with who they are, and for what they are doing. The process of creating history takes time and organization, plan carefully and be sure that you fill any holes.
- Once you have the basics of each character you need to personalize them. The best way to bring your character to life is to give them real life issues. Habits, compulsions, and obsessions are a great way of making your characters more human. Perhaps your main character is a compulsive hand-washer, a smoker, an alcoholic or is constantly quoting cheesy comedy films, whatever the case they need to have a human habit that others can relate to, something that makes them vulnerable and realistic and life-like.
- Build emotion in your character to create empathy and connect them with your readers. Even the most frightening of villains has to have a soft spot, some one needs to be able to connect with what makes this character tick. The deepest emotion a character can express is crying, but they need not actually cry to express this human trait, just showing that there is something that is capable of causing this sentiment is enough to connect them to the real world. Find the one thing that would hurt your character and share it in some way with your readers, this builds trust and creates a connection.
- In line with personalizing your character, be sure you create flaws. Flaws are another way of humanizing a fictional character. People are not perfect, and they will not enjoy reading about someone who is. Create some kind of flaw for your main characters to help your readers relate to them. Perhaps they harbor a deep dislike for another character in your story, maybe they lie a lot, swear a lot, or have trouble focusing on what is important. Give your characters some kind of flaw so they are not perfect, unbelievable icons that your readers can not relate to on a personal level.
- The last step in character creation is to ensure that you have covered all the bases. Sort out all the details of your characters, especially your main characters, such as personality, appearance, distinctive traits and personal information. You should know your main characters as well as you know yourself. Even if you are not going to use the information as part of the story line, things like zodiac sign, and favorite foods, will help you connect to the characters and create a consistent flow in your writing. Creating characters is a bit like being an actor, you need to get into the role and be a part of who they are. Let your imagination run wild and remember the more information you have the better.
How you create your characters differs with each writer, some writers prefer to outline all characters before they write a single word, where others will set out the basics of their main characters and create the rest along the way. Experiment and find what works best for you. The great thing about writing is that there are really no rules and you have the freedom to be creative. If you are a beginner than character creation may take a bit of time, but with practice it will become easier. Keep in mind how important a solid character is, and think of the time spent creating them as an investment in your story. The process can be tedious but it is worth the effort to have a well-rounded character without any gray areas or unanswered questions. Take your time and be thorough, and most of all have fun. The sky is the limit and you can go wherever your imagination will allow you.
Until Next Time…
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