One of the markers of a good book is wonderful characters. Characters that leap out of the pages and gain substance – you can almost touch them. However, creating them is not easy, nor is it formulaic. You cannot simply download a computer program, input certain character traits as parameters and spawn an interesting protagonist with a supporting cast. Instead, we create characters out of everything that we are – our beliefs, fears, emotions, thinking patterns and actions. It’s a process that cannot be mapped or straightened out. You need patience and a lot of trial and error before you can create a character that will stay in the reader’s mind long after they’ve finished reading your book.
1. Research the character
Every character needs some kind of research. This is the main reason why the most basic writing advice anyone will give you is: Write what you know. While research can be difficult for some writers, others enjoy the process: the time they have to spend in the library, talking to people, or researching the internet just to make sure they give their character, who is for example, an anthropologist, the right voice. Understanding what to research and the importance of research is an important step in creating a life like character. The research will pave the way for the imagination to create and bring the character to life.
2. Define the character
Create a visual image of your character. Define them; give them a name and an appearance. It is not necessary to divulge all those details on the first page, of course. Instead, use dialogue, descriptive words and actions to show who they are. After all, you have the whole length of your novel to do so, even more if you’re writing a series. Choose their attributes carefully, and make sure to leave room for growth. People change, and so should your characters. However, define their core qualities and make sure they stick to those until the end, while making sure that the things they change brings them out of their comfort zone.
3. Create a paradox
Defining a character is based on creating consistencies and paradoxes. The consistencies make us know the characters in a novel, but the paradoxes make sure we truly know them, as if they are our best friends. Those little quirks, things that are illogical and paradoxical are the things that make the characters compelling and interesting. Creating a character is a process that goes back and forth. First you create your character using one broad stroke of characterization, and then you find the character’s consistencies, and the paradoxes within them that make them much more interesting and memorable.
4. Get to know your characters
Think of yourself as your character’s confidante. Ask your characters about them, and you will be surprised at how much they’ll tell you. They will reveal their hopes, dreams, emotions and inner conflicts; their quirks and fears, and their feelings and thoughts about the other characters in your novel, as if they’re gossiping about them. Listen to them. You would be surprised at how entertaining they are. Get to know the inner workings of your characters. This will help you create stronger and more understandable characters that are as dynamic and as fascinating as real people. Let your characters entertain you, and then, show who they are and what they are all about on the pages of your novel. Allow your entertaining characters to entertain the reader.
5. Give them an attitude
Characters that constantly have thoughts, feelings and opinions that go through their brain when they’re not talking out loud to other characters are lively and interesting. These inner thoughts can show aspects and traits that the protagonist doesn’t show to the other characters in the novel. For example, a protagonist might never utter a sarcastic sentence to another character, but we know she’s sarcastic because her inner thoughts are filled with sarcasm. This would make the character easier to write; because the consistency of the character will give them a voice and make them more interesting and absorbing to read. However, if the characters don’t have opinions and only share a few inner thoughts with the readers, and whose thoughts are only focused on the action, come across as robots that only narrate the story. They are limited, unbelievable, and ultimately – the readers will not care about their fate.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in January 2015.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic.
As a 22-year-old art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.