In episode 16 of Writes4Women Kel and I chat about characters in fiction and as always we like to support our conversation with a post summarising the main points. So here, in no particular order and are ten tips for creating memorable characters. I’ll refer to the protagonist as she because mine invariably are.
- Character creates plot. Put your character in a difficult situation or give her a problem to deal with and your plot will begin to reveal itself.
- Glean ideas for characters from stories you read in the media, people you meet, friends, family and acquaintances. Try blending a few characteristics from different people to create a whole new character.
- Your characters should be as real to you as your friends and family or they should become that way by the time you’ve finished revising.
- Pinterest and google images are great sources of visual inspiration for characters. Here’s a link to my pinterest page for my latest manuscript, Cross My Heart, where you can see how I’ve collected images for various characters.
- Consider what your character has to learn. How does she learn this during the course of the story? Who are her ‘teachers’ and who are the people who stand in the way of her learning?
- Character arc: your character should develop during the narrative and should be, at least in some way, a different person at the end of the story. This is closely linked to what she has to learn. Some characters are dynamic (your protagonist definitely should be) and others are static (they help the protagonist on her journey).
- Character bio’s can be very useful but you don’t need to have a hugely detailed one before you start to write. Begin with a few basics on the character – age, family relationships, work, initial problem and then start writing. When you get to a point where you need to know more about the character you can stop and nut out some details. Go deeper than ‘what is her favourite colour’. Think about things like ‘what is her greatest fear’, ‘what does she think about just before she goes to sleep’ – the tough stuff.
- One question it’s important to ask from the start is ‘What is the character’s wound?’ The wound is something that happened to them in childhood or adolescence that had a huge impact on who they became and what they believe about themselves and about others. For instance a character whose father walked out when they were a kid may then believe they aren’t lovable. This can then manifest itself in any number of behaviours, ranging from pushing others away to being overly clingy, depending on other personality traits. There’s a heap more detail on this over at onestopforwriters.com and I highly recommend you checking out their range of Thesaurus’s including The Emotion Thesaurus and The Wound Thesaurus.
- As well as the story arc consider the emotional arc for your protagonist (and others). In any given situation we have a range of emotions and your character’s are no different. As you write, and certainly when you revise, think about the primary emotions happening in each scene but also consider the underlying emotions going on and how these influence your character’s behavior.
- As always try and show not tell. Show us your character being angry through her actions, internal dialogue and dialogue. This will create a much deeper emotional connection between your character and your reader.
We’d love to hear your tips on creating characters readers will want to hang out with. You can share them in the comments section here or on our Facebook page.