11 Top Articles on Writing Characters Every Fiction Author Should Read
If you’re an author writing a novel or short story, you will need to create characters that are compelling, believable and relatable. Just how do you go about doing this? The internet has more than enough great articles to help, inspire, educate and motivate you to write unforgettable characters. Below we’ve compiled 11 of the very best posts to help you write the types of characters, which will make your readers come back to you for more!
Before talking about this post, I should explain that Writers Helping Writers, which is the website where it can be found, is an absolute goldmine for writers who want incorporate different types of characters into their stories. Let’s go back to this particular article then. In it, Angela Ackerman gets specific about how to bring your characters’ flaws to life, by giving them real meaning through connecting their shortcomings back to past experiences, and emotional trauma, and provides some great advice on ensuring the negativity experienced by your characters is through their denial of being worthy of one of the five basic human needs.
In K.M. Weiland’s article at her blog Helping Writers Become Authors, you will learn the importance of connecting your characters to the plot of your story, as both are intertwined. Be sure to take a look at K.M.’s piece to learn about the key types of character arcs, and how character arcs link to theme. There’s also a useful infographic there, which demonstrates how characters from well-known stories were like at the beginning, and how they changed by the end. After reading this article, K.M. provides links to some follow on resources that also look more deeply into the topic of story characters.
Author and editor C.S. Lakin in her article about crafting genuine characters, at her website Live Write Thrive, emphasises on word whiskers and making your characters truly realistic, by giving them an expression or phrase, which they repeat in conversation. Another key feature of characterisation covered in her article, is to write strong secondary characters by giving them their own backgrounds, along with a quirk about their physical appearance and a unique behaviour.
At his website Terribleminds, New York Times bestselling author Chuck Wendig explains in his usual frank and humorous way, 25 key elements a great character needs. Among others, aspects which a character requires as explained by Chuck, include fear, internal conflict, and linkages to other characters, strengths, flaws and secrets. Chuck also reminds you to not forget yourself and really let your imagination go, as ultimately the characters you write will be unique, due to your own uniqueness and individual perspective on life and the world.
Fantasy and Science Fiction author Kate Elliott explains in a wonderful essay at Tor.com, her views on how to write female characters. She amplifies three key areas in her piece, including having enough women in your story so that they can communicate with each other, giving more secondary roles to women to help establish the scene of your book, and giving women active roles that exist for themselves, as opposed to positions that only serve in relationships tied to men.
Author Jen Blood’s guest post at The Creative Penn provides advice to all you authors who are writing a series. She explains how to write a long-term serial character that will survive the lifespan of your series, so your readers maintain interest in the character. Particular areas covered by Jen in her post are the importance of knowing your character before you put pen to paper, being mindful of your character’s arc, using action to establish individuality of characters, and reviewing masterful TV and novel series to get ideas.
Pete Kalu, the award-winning poet, novelist and playwright provides some masterful guidance on how to write multicultural characters in a non-clichéd manner, in an article for The Guardian. Check out this article to learn among other things, how to put yourself into the shoes of a character from a diverse background, how to place multicultural characters at the centre of your story, creating a conflict that disturbs with the typical experience a person from a minority ethnic background might have, and doing appropriate research by speaking to members of a community, which you wish to incorporate into your book. Pete also advises on getting feedback from readers.
Ali Luke’s piece at Daily Writing Tips, gives some top tips for writing characters including pitfalls to watch out for, such as confusing quirks you might give to your characters with real characterisation. Ali also looks at the proper way of using your own life as inspiration for your characters, without going over the top and explains how to make your readers empathise with the characters you have created.
Jennifer Blanchard is an author, award-winning blogger and writing coach, who at her blog reinforces the approach used by Larry Brooks and advises to make characters three dimensional. With this model, the first dimension is surface characteristics and behaviours of characters, the second dimension is the backstory and inner problems, and the third dimension consists of how characters make sense of the world, and how their worldviews compel them to take action, or refrain from acting in certain situations.
Sophie Novak’s piece at The Write Practice focuses on writing strong characters. She places particular emphasis on self-reflection and you as the author looking through the eyes of your character and the world around you, in order to really feel the character, so that you readers can too. A great tip offered by Sophie is to keep asking the question ‘why’ when writing characters. If you’re character has a scar on his back for instance, be clear as to why he has this scar, because your readers will want to know how it came about.
Melissa Donovan over at her blog Writing Forward simplifies the writing of characters through 12 tips. The 12 tips help you to create characters for your stories that are intricate and complicated, just the way humans are in real life! Each tip can also be used as an outline to create a sketch of the major and secondary characters in your book; an exercise well worth doing.
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