I was laying in bed the other day, pondering if one of my characters’ in my upcoming book was rounded enough or if I should try to add more layers to make him more interesting, and honestly, I haven’t made up my mind yet. As I was speculating, my mind started to wander. How is it I create the characters’ when I write and how can they be made more interesting?
I mainly write fantasy, but the following can be implemented in any genre of fictional writing to create the right characters’ for your story.
Characters role in the story
First of, you need to figure out, what role you want the character to have. There’s a great difference between a main character and a minor character.
Usually the main character is more rounded and has more layers than a minor character. That doesn’t mean that only the main character can be rounded, but how much the reader needs to know about the character is usually defined by the characters’ role in the story.
A helper can be just as rounded as the main character (protagonist), just as the villain can be as rounded as the protagonist.
Some characters’ are flat characters’ that serves a purpose in the story, but only for a short time and therefore isn’t needed to be described as thoroughly.
Gender and appearance
When describing that character you will need to comment on the gender and appearance. After all, you are trying to paint a picture with words, so they can’t just be a white blob on the canvas.
One of the things I do, to get inspiration for my characters’ appearance is people-watching. When ever I leave the house, I notice the people I pass on the street and make a mental note, whenever I see someone with a special feature, like a beautiful dress, a strange hairstyle or crooked nose. Everything you see can be mixed and matched into a character.
If that is too much, then start by sitting somewhere with a lot of people. Pick one out, and try to create a story about this person. It is a great exercise that will help you become great at building characters.
Creating the personality of you characters’ can be tricky. You no longer have the opportunity to look at strangers, because to know peoples personality you have to talk to them.
This is where you will need to take advantage of the people you have talked to, and gotten to know throughout your life. Of course the people you know in real life are composed of several personality traits and depending on the role of your character you can pick one or more personality traits for your character as you see fit. I usually pick one or two dominant personality traits for my main characters’ and as many subservient personality traits as I want. When these traits are mixed with emotions the personality of the character should become really clear.
Describing your character
When I first started writing I made the mistake of listing pretty much all visual features, like this: “She had blonde hair, blue eyes and bright red lips. She wore a blue denim jacket over a pink top and had a pair of black, tight pants on. On her feet was a pair of plain white sneakers.”
It can work, if it’s from characters’ point of view. Let say that one character is describing the look of another character to a third character. However, if you, as I do, write with a third-person-narration it gets boring and irritating to read. You don’t need to reveal everything about characters’ appearance all at once. It’s okay to let the reader get a little at a time, that way it becomes more memorable to the reader and it will be a nice experience to read.
As I wrote earlier, you get to know people by talking to them, so remember to use dialog to let the reader get to know your character along with descriptions. For example: “Wow, you look beautiful in that dress.” he said while his eyes glided up and down her body, taking a mental picture of her in the red, tight dress with her dark hair softly resting on her shoulders.”
The dialog can be more descriptive as well. For example: “I can’t get over how blue your eyes are. They are like looking into a deep clear ocean.” he said as he kept staring into her eyes.
This works for feelings and personality traits as well as appearance. If a character is stubborn there can be a dialog where one character refuses to do something and the other calls him/her stubborn, and if a character is happy he/she can say something cheerful and smile.
Practice makes perfect
The key to writing is practice, no matter the subject. Whether you are struggling with descriptions, dialog, world building, character building or whatever, you need to practice getting better. I know that I can still become better at a lot of things when it comes to writing, but because it’s what I love to do, I can’t stop myself from doing it and the practice come along with it. However along with practice you will need to look at how other people do it, so I will recommend that you read a lot too. You can learn so much from other writers, and I’ll bet that most of them had something they were struggling with too when they started writing. You just don’t see it because they practiced.
Oh, and as always. Remember to have fun with it. Writing is supposed to be fun and not feel like a chore or a job. It will reflect in your writing if you don’t enjoy it.