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creating characters
STORY PEOPLE: CREATING STRONGER CHARACTERS

 

As you guys know, I began prepping my novel two weeks ago and so I’ve been doing a lot of character work. Usually when I get an idea, they’re usually pretty much full-fledged. I usually know that it’s about X and he goes through Z and W but sometimes the idea comes in pieces. There’s an idea for a plot and then an idea for a character and I have to merge them into a complete story. Sometimes there’s only a plot and I have to look for characters to live it. Sometimes it’s the other way round.

For my current work-in-progress, it was definitely a case of plot (or at least an inkling of it) first. As a joke, I wondered about a governess for a full grown man. This intrigued me and filled me with all sorts of questions. What sort of man would require a governess? What sort of woman would agree to such an absurd arrangement? At the end, it led me to the story idea.

Now after settling on a story idea, the next step for me is usually to begin fleshing out the characters.

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This is important because you’ve got to know your characters through and though to write them well. As I’ve mentioned before, my characters are very much a part of me. They drive me to write their stories and to not write them well would be an injustice. It is important that readers love your characters as deeply as you do.

 

creating characters

 

 

 

For this to happen, you need to:

 

-MAKE THEM FLAWED

Because nobody likes a perfect person.

Remember that girl/boy in high school who was always so perfect. That kid that sat in the front row, obeyed all the rules, answered all the questions correctly, maybe even brought an apple for the teacher a few times.

Remember how you rolled your eyes at him and called him ‘goody-two-shoes’? Yep that is not a reaction you want your readers to have towards your characters but that is what will happen if you write them as perfect.

So beware of making your characters sinfully handsome, incredibly smart, filthy rich and insanely popular. Give them a few bad qualities. A gambling problem. An antisocial personality. Let them have prejudices and make wrong choices sometimes because that is how real people are.

course everything in moderation. Don’t go overboard and make your heroes so bad as to alienate your readers. A balance of faults and redeeming qualities is the goal.

-MAKE THEM RELATABLE

Readers need to see something of themselves in your characters. A way to get this done is by giving your characters real life insecurities and problems.

For example most people understand money problems, frugally budgetting and saving up as much as we can. So people will likely relate to a character that is struggling to make ends meet. For me, I find I relate more to characters that are awkward around other people. Because I totally get that.

Of course, there is also something to be said about giving readers a different reality to which to escape to. Once again, a balance is the goal.

 

-MAKE THEM ACTIVE

By this, I mean that they need to be doers.

Gosh, I hate when characters spend most of the story whining about their problems. Come to think of it, I hate when people whine in real life. Stand up and do something about it.

People read stories to see the hero/heroine be just that- heroes! Whining or brooding for too long after a setback doesn’t seem very heroic. To make them believable, they should grieve after major setback but only a little. They should be ready to do battle again soon.

-MAKE THEM SENSIBLE

Of course in real life, people are not always sensible but in stories, characters should always be sensible unless the character is intentionally stupid for comic relief. Or else reader reviews will be riddled with ‘tdtl’ which means ‘too dumb to live’.

This means that your characters shouldn’t make decisions that do not draw logically from the story or miss obvious clues to a mystery just for the sake of dragging the story along. If they do make seemingly stupid decisions, there has to be a tangible reason that is true to the character’s nature and/or ties into the character’s overall goal.

So don’t make your teenage character go to the store after dark when she knows there is a serial killer on the loose who targets teenage girls. Not unless you have a satisfactory reason for it.

-MAKE THEM VULNERABLE

Because nothing drives character sympathy like vulnerability. It makes the characters seem more real, relatable and human if they have some sort of vulnerability or insecurity. Maybe give him/her a tragic past that still haunts them. Maybe he/she is bullied or has an abusive parent?

Make your characters suffer. So your character is afraid of dogs? Tough. Make her have to train a rabid dog in order to achiever her overall goal. Even better if the insecurities are more personal. . Take their fears/insecurities and play them for all their worth. It’s sort of like sticking your hand into an open wound and wiggling it. Before long your readers will start to root for your characters.

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These are a few things I’m keeping in mind as I am working on developing my characters.

Character profiles are extremely helpful when figuring out your characters. It’s basically interviewing your characters by asking yourself simple questions like the colour of their hair and then deeper questions like their defining moment in life.

However for pantsers, character profiles might prove stilting to the writing process. A few lines about the character is enough to jump in and begin writing. The details are discovered during drafting,

But whether plotter or pantser, it’s a good idea to have some sort of information about your characters before drafting.

But hey, whatever works. There’s no hard and fast rule.

For me, I have plotter instincts. My impulse is to plan everything down to the barest detail. But this tends to stifle the process for me and causes me toget trapped in the planning. So all in all, I process best as a pantser.

So right now, I only have a few notes about my characters. I still have more written down than any true pantser but at least I didn’t go down the crazy planning hole.

And so that’s a breeze-through of story characters.

Here’s to hoping I start drafting soon.

 

 

COMMENT

So guys, what do you guys think? Feel free to suggest other character traits. Comment!

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creating characters


Alright, it’s the end of the post which means:

SO today’s prompts:

Fill out a character profile with random answers. Write the story of the resulting character.

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