I would like to introduce Christina Jones to the blog today! Hope you enjoy her tips on character development. Follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cdjones86.
When we choose a book to read, it’s usually because of the compelling story that was written on the back cover. However, that story isn’t what keeps us reading. We may not notice it but it’s usually the characters that keep us coming back. Sure, maybe there are a few of you out there who could care less about the characters. You’re only interested in skipping ahead to the next action scene. You, my friend, are a rarity.
As readers, we crave human characters. We want to be able to empathize with them. A story is nothing if the reader could care less what happens to the characters. So, writers, that’s where you come in. Your job is to make the readers care.
How do I do that?
First, let’s identify the two types of characters. There are flat characters and round characters. Flat characters are stereotypical and dull. They don’t have any depth and they never surprise the readers.
Round characters are the complete opposite. They are full of depth and they can surprise the reader all the time, kind of like people do in real life. Are you seeing where I’m going here? Flat is exactly what you don’t want. Breathe life into your characters.
TIP: Make your characters three-dimensional by using dialogue, mannerisms and actions (show don’t tell).
How do I make them round?
I could give you a cliché’ list of answers but I don’t think that would be much help. So, I’m going to tell you exactly how I go about creating my characters.
It all starts with an idea. Let’s say that I’m writing a book about a pilot whose life dream is to become a zookeeper (sounds like a best seller to me). The first thing that I would do would be to sit down and write a sort-of profile for him. I would jot down his age, marital status, what he looks like, where he lives, where he grew up, where he went to school, if he has kids, etc.. Then, you have to dig deeper. I do this with a basic list of questions.
• What are your character’s flaws?
• What motivates them to do the things that they do?
• What are their vices or weaknesses?
• What is your character’s strong point?
• What is their ultimate goal in life?
TIP #1: Think of yourself. We play many roles in life and it’s hard to sum ourselves up in one word. Don’t make your characters have to do that. It’s not fair to them. They are more than just a father or a pilot. Create the things that are beneath the surface, too.
TIP #2: If you’re having a really hard time putting yourself into your characters shoes, take some online quizzes and answer them from your character’s point of view.
Once you’ve figured out who your character is and what lies beneath them, create situations that are going to test them. Find their weakness and bring them to the edge of their breaking point. The best characters are the ones who learn and grow during the stories. That makes them human.
The bottom line is this: When you are creating characters, you are creating people. Your characters need to have hopes, dreams, fears, flaws and everything that you have. This will ensure that your readers will love your characters as much as you do. It won’t hurt your chances of publication, either. Without great characters, all you have is a plot and no one to make it happen.
If you are looking for a little extra help with your characters, here are a few good books that are worth investing in:
• A Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein
• A Writer’s Guide to Characterization by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
• Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger
If you found this post helpful, be sure to share it with someone else who may need a little help. Also, if you have some great character development tips, let us know. We could all use a good tip once in a while.