Think about this: what is one thing you love from your favourite novel? Is it the plot that gets you so hooked you forget the cup of coffee sitting on the table? Or the setting you keep wondering about? How about the characters?
Characters are those beings living in your plot who convey the entire story. They are the mirror of the book who brings out the plot and theme. If you want your readers to think long after the last page is closed, treat your characters like your loved ones. Let the readers devour into the plot using your character’s individuality. Building characters with complexities, distinct personalities, and goals dive the readers into the story. Once you understand your characters inside and out, you can mix them in the plot or let them guide the story. Dimension, conflict, and empathy are some of the many things that can help you avoid creating dull characters. Here are few things about them:
One thing that makes characters dull is their lack of flaws. Develop human-like characters, let them have their flaws. Think about different aspects of life. Are they rich? If yes, are they greedy? Are they social? If not, are they lonely?
Let your characters have an internal conflict that influences the plot. No internal conflict makes the story monotonous and the character boring.
For example, the superhero of a story has to fight the villain. But he is still unsure of his capability. He doubts himself about being able to control his power. What if he hurts an innocent? These thoughts bring an inner conflict in him, which makes it difficult to solve the external conflict. You can experiment with the solutions to the conflicts. The result of the external conflict can cause a solution to inner conflict and vice versa.
Empathy is the power I love experimenting with. A way to incorporate empathy into your story would be to tell your readers why the villain committed the crimes. Empathy helps paste characters into the reader’s mind. You can always jump around different perspectives to showcase how the characters feel or what they have been through.
If you include these in your characters, you are ready!
Character outline is THE step I love. I invest more time in this step. It is where you connect and fall in love with your characters. I take it as a blind date; you don’t know what you expect or how they are. But you make a go for it.
Outlining characters includes the character’s past, personality, manners, and behavior. For example; one character may have a habit of scrunching their nose again and again. The other may explain themselves, their habits, and why they did certain things again and again because they had abusive parents.
Origins matter! It gives an insight into what they might be like, their goal, and their inner conflicts.
Different methods can be used to outline characters! The technique I find the easiest is Q&A on a mind map. There are questions I ask myself and address the answers in a form of a mind map.
Questions you can ask yourself can be:
Now, when you have your character ready to fall in love with, revealing them on the screen is crucial. SHOW DON’T TELL. You can use their behavior, attitude towards someone, or their actions to reveal the character.
Instead of ‘The young CEO of the company was cold and caring. He wanted all works done on time,’.
We can say ‘A tall man with a sharp jawline entered the conference hall. All staff members stood up at his sight. He bent down to the level of his secretary’s daughter, bringing a bar of chocolate out of his Tom Ford suit. The little girl leaped with joy. She brought his first smile of the day. He walked up to me and extended his hand for the file I had been holding. I shuddered under his icy gaze. His neck and hand veins were popping out while his eyes held no emotion. He was angry. I handed him the file while looking down at my heels, knowing very well I had crossed the deadline.’
Here, we get a taste of being his employee. We get a clue he has a soft side. We notice his veins pop out when he is angry. He doesn’t smile much. He is rich. A flashback can help display a character or some new characters into the story. Be careful about the transition between the flashback and the present time.
Few ways you can present flashbacks can be:
Try not to stop describing the characters. As you write, you discover more!
Your readers need to recognize the characters! Reminders are essential! But do not repeat everything again. The characters shouldn’t be too similar. Experiment with unique traits, accents, and behaviours. Ellen’s show and Carpool Karaoke can help you explore your characters more. Ask questions and answer them! Look into where the character would want to go depending upon their personality. Maybe your introverted character will take the host to the library!
Remain alert and aware of the accents and behaviour of people around you.
It is all about how you play around!
Make your characters human-like!
Practice, practice, and practice!
Credits to Reedsy learning.
How To Develop Memorable Characters (Free Course) • Reedsy
How to Write Believable Dialogue (Free Course) • Reedsy Learning
The Simple 9-Step Guide to Character Development
How to Develop a Character: 7 Simple Steps