When you’re reading a story, what grabs you the most- plot or character?
With me, it’s character. I enjoy reading a well-written character, who’s multifaceted and interesting. Of course, it’s easier said than done. I’m not an expert, but I do think I have an idea on how to get your characters moving and grooving in an interesting way. Here are five tips for writing characters who are interesting and realistic:
Tip 1: Name that tune
What is your characters name? Is there significance to it? (A family name? Has Name a certain meaning? Etc.) What does your character look like? You don’t have to go into every insignificant detail. If you do, it’ll start to feel to your reader like you don’t trust them to make some decisions. Describe parts that are important and that give your character shape. If your character is someone who has a hard lifestyle, talk about those lines on his face, the jagged scar running down her thigh. Those puffy bags under his eyes from his habitual drinking tell a lot about who he is and what he does.
Tip 2: Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?
What are the qualities that your characters exhibit? Are they shy? Quick to anger? Incredibly insecure? Do you have friends who have qualities that make them a bit alike so they’re more likely to clash, but on some issues, they’re really steadfast? Don’t be afraid to mix it up and give your character seemingly opposing traits- the shy librarian who has a wild streak. The angry bartender with a soft side for baby kittens. You get it.
Tip 3: So what’cha, what’cha, what’cha want, what’cha want?
What drives your characters? What pushes them to make moves? What is the thing that they want the most? And what is the thing that they need? The need is going to be what really drives the underlying story. Is it love? To have an actual home? Revenge? To deal with grief? Knowing these elements to your characters will make them richer and more interesting to write and ultimately for your readers to experience.
Tip 4: It’s a family affair…it’s a family affair…
Here’s one thing that shapes us all in the best (and sometimes worse) ways possible: our families. Who is your character’s family? Is there some mommy or daddy issues lurking in the background? Was the family wonderfully supportive and amazing, but had terrible luck that destroyed things? Is your character’s family gone now and he’s all on his own? Was his grandfather abusive? His mother likes a little coffee in her Baileys? Having that family background and learning her roots will show you more about how she will react in the future to the obstacles (and opportunities) you plop in her path.
Tip 5: My flaws are the only thing left that’s pure
Do not write characters who are perfect. Give them moments where they stumble, crumble, and break down. The most interesting traits of characters are how they react when things don’t go their way. Yes, it can be hard to make your character go through the bad, but in order to get to the good, there must be some bad. It’ll increase the level of tension, make the conflict more intense, and just generally makes for better writing.
Did you guess the lyrics? Do you have a favorite character from books or movies? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you like talking about writing, join us at the #writestuff Twitter chat every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT. Find me on there: @penpaperpad.