This is probably the thing I spend the most time on when writing. I know why each of my characters made each decision. Why they use the words they do. The way they see the world, and WHY they see the world a certain way. (Then I hope I’ve transferred that to the page).
An artist will notice color and light, an architect will notice shapes, a fighter will notice exits, barriers, and safeties…etc…
Here are a few questions that I ask myself when I’m working on a novel to help me flesh out characters.
- How does my character change and evolve throughout the story? If your character in a given intense situation would choose the same option at the end of your story as at the beginning, re-visit your character (and maybe your story).
- How does the MC’s background affect how they see the world? What does fear feel like to your character? Happiness? Joy? Sadness? I feel sadness differently than my sister, than my friends, than my husband, than my daughter. Depending on my experience, a specific situation might not hit very hard, or it might hit much harder than for most people. Make reactions unique to your MC. I will never share this article on “thought verbs” enough – HERE.
- With the above – how does a character’s interests affect their view of the world? If I’m in the POV of an athletic person, I’d expect a few references to that in their actions and reactions to other people. I just wrote a girl who is the heiress to a cookie and candy company, and I spent a lot of time using those kinds of references to describe emotions, feelings, physical reactions… That’s HER world. You can overdo this… Search out – OBJECTIVE CORRELATIVE, or just go HERE.
- At the beginning of each scene (And this goes with my last post on LEARN. PROPEL), I ask myself – What do I want my reader to feel? This is a very simple tool to help heighten tension and keep the focus of an individual scene.
- Without hesitation, I should be able to tell you 15-20 things about my character. Stupid things like they always do donut Tuesday (Ok. That’s kind of important), and important things like – they’ll choose friendships above everything else, or they’ll choose their little sister before helping anyone else… Big and small. I don’t care if only half those details ever come into your MS, you, as the author, need to know.
- Your character will interact with other people. Establish friendships, navigate relationships of all kinds… With the relationships that don’t work, why not? What fundamental need isn’t being met? And on the flip-side of that – WHAT NEED DO MY CHARACTERS FILL IN EACH OTHER? This is just as important in friendships as it is in romantic relationships. One of my biggest pet peeves is a group of friends, each of whom is drastically different. HOW DID YOU END UP AS FRIENDS? We so very often end up with like-minded people. Are we all different? YES. But keep in mind that your ensemble needs to have something in common unless they’ve been thrown together.
- Don’t be afraid to write up whole character sketches. I don’t care if you’re writing a short romantic novella, or a fantasy series, you might want to sit down and work through a big long sheet on your character. You might learn something that prompts a killer scene 😉 Here’s a nice little sheet that I stole from HERE. No, I don’t always use something like this, but EVERY time I have, it’s strengthened my MS.
So. There ya go. A LUCKY SEVEN things about characterization 🙂
I keep getting these notes of – PLEASE KEEP THE LEARNING ABOUT WRITING STUFF COMING!! And I want to do that, so… what next?
Edits on first pages?
Queries, Blurbs, Synopses?