Your novel will live or die by the believability of your characters. Why, because your characters sell your story. They take you through each scene and the plot develops through their experiences. They have to be well rounded so that they capture your audience. Here’s a few key points to keep in mind when creating fictional characters.
1. Character Development
Your characters have to evolve along with the plot or it doesn’t work. Try to think about life in a general sense. Friendships and romantic relationships take time to develop. Some more quickly than others but never all at once.
Also, steer clear of one dimensional characters. Your hero cannot be without flaws and your bad guy cannot be all bad. That’s just not human. Think of yourself for a minute and make a list of all your best/worst personality traits. You have some on both sides, right? Well, so should all your characters.
2. Use Imagery
You have to write using your five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. I’m sure you’ve all heard writers say, “show me without telling”. That’s what that phrase means. Allow your readers to go through the experience with your characters.
• Don’t just tell me he touched her face. Tell me what her skin felt like when he touched it?
• Don’t tell me his breath stunk. Describe what his breath smelled like?
• Don’t tell me they ate dinner together. What did they eat? What did the food taste like?
• Don’t say your character is a slob. What is your character wearing?
Let the reader figure out an opinion themselves. That’s how good writing works. You give them the clues and they make up their minds.
3. Know Your Characters
Before you can write a novel, you need to know your characters as well as you know yourself. Not their storylines – them. What are their likes and dislikes? What are their favorite foods and pet peeves? What about their physical traits? You need to know everything about them so that you know how they will react in situations. Try giving them a birthday. Why? Because every astrology sign has a list of character traits that includes strengths and weaknesses. Use them to help you develop your characters personality. May sound silly, but give it a try.
This is extremely important especially in the young adult and middle grade markets. Teenagers and children have their own lingo. If you get the language wrong then it will kill your novel no matter how good your story happens to be. Most importantly, don’t try to explain the whole story in the dialogue between two characters.
Bad Writing Example:
Henry said, “Carla, I know you are feeling this way because six months ago you lost your father in a car accident and feel personally responsible.”
No one talks like that and your readers know it. Simply put, you have to do better than that. The easiest way to pick up on this is to pay attention to how people talk in conversations. Go sit somewhere and people watch. If that doesn’t work then think about the conversations you have with your co-workers, friends, significant other, etc. Use that knowledge to help you with your character dialogue.
I know that all this may sound daunting, but writing isn’t easy. The best advice I can give is to say that you need to read a ton especially in the genre you plan to write in. The more you read, the better you will understand the art of writing. Good luck and Happy Writing.
You can check out some of my other articles for writers here: Articles for Writers
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