A good story, with a tight plot and dynamic pace can be crushed with lack of good characterization. Your cast of characters needs a lot of things to be convincing and memorable, from their names, to unique physical appearance, the way they communicate with other people and how your characters behave. However, if none of that is accompanied by deep characterization, then your readers will not give credibility to your characters.
Characterization is tricky, and it mainly depends on whether you’re writing a standalone novel or a series. If you’re writing a series, then you have more “page time” to develop your characters, and while this doesn’t necessarily make characterization itself easier, it does give you the opportunity to focus more on the plot. This is why we’ve presented several ways, which you can use to improve your characterization and how to best portray your characters in a novel, be it standalone, or a series.
1. Tie past to present
Characters are defined by their past: it dictates how they will talk, how they will act, and how they will dress – in other words, the characters’ past is what dictates their characterization. However, it’s not easy to present a character’s past without slowing down the pace with backstory, or even stopping it altogether. But, the past can be told through memories, flashbacks, and conversations – especially if what your character decides to share is important because it ties into the plot. It can be a clue, a parallel, or maybe your character can analyze something that has happened to him or her in order to better understand his or her current situation.
2. Solve emotional issues
Nothing makes a character more real than emotional issues that need to be solved. Emotional issues seem easy to create, but you must be careful not to create emotional issues that don’t fit your character’s background. Every issue needs to have a root in the character’s past. Another thing that the readers love is when a character faces an emotional issue and comes out the winner on the other side. However, a character can also decide to ignore and deny the issue, and while in this situation, the issue doesn’t get solved, the readers will know how the character feels about it.
3. Drastic changes
The events of the plot need to bring to light the characters’ pasts and their emotional issues. Once the characters face their problems they need to make a drastic change, which will make them change their manner of thinking. The change will provide motivation and the characters will take decisions which will now move the plot towards the resolution. If your characters don’t change as a result of the events of the plot, then it will be difficult to give credibility to the resolution of the plot. In other words, if the characters don’t change even a little bit, then the characters’ background, the plot and the resolution of their emotional issues is redundant.
4. Interaction with other characters
A very good way of showing a character’s personality is through their interaction with other characters – especially children and elders. For example, the readers will immediately catch upon a character’s personality if they see them be mean to children or disrespectful towards elders. Instead of telling the readers that the character is good or bad, have their personality shine through interactions and behavior towards others, no matter whether they are their peers, their employees or parents.
5. Life out of plot
One of the bigger failures some writers tend to make is to make their characters students, teachers, plumbers or even pilots – without ever showing a moment where the character teaches or attends a class, or flies a plane. A thief needs to be shown stealing, and a flight attendant will have a tight schedule of flights. The plot might not be connected to the character’s workplace – but you can show the character going about their usual routine when something happens that plunges the story straight back into the plot.
Image credit: Pixabay
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an 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.