Thursday, March 1, 2012

Creating a Memorable Character (Part 1 of 3)

Want to know how to create real, living, breathing, and believable characters? Here are some tips and tricks to give your characters life:

       1. First step is a must--and one I'm sure you're familiar with--is to create a character profile on each of your main characters (J.K. Rowling wrote intricate and detailed backstory on each of her characters, both main and guest characters). Go beyond giving them basic descriptions: hair color, eye color, height, build. Make them real. Here’s how:

a.       Think about what makes them unique: attitude, morality, belief system, religion, unique gestures (ie talks with their hands, rubs their nose when they lie, always has their hands in their pockets—and what does that mean?), family history (or lack thereof)

      2. Use all five senses (there are many below that may overlap--click link to read how I use this!):

a.       Smell: Do they have a unique scent? Do they sweat a lot? Where are they located that might contribute to their scent?
b.      Sight/presentation: Do they stand straight, slightly stooped, submissive vs dominant?
c.       Taste: To incorporate this sense, I think of the things they do with their mouth: purse lips, dry/chapped lips, rolling of their tongue, smoke, chew tobacco, constant licking of lips, constant swallowing.
d.      Hear/sound: Do they have a rasp in their voice, speak with an accent, slur, have a speech impediment, drag their feet when they walk, cluck their tongue often, snap their fingers?
e.      Touch: Do they have soft/rough hands, are they touchy/feely—like to touch the person they’re talking to, hugger/non-hugger?

       3. Are they reactive or proactive?

a.       How do they react in different situations and how do they feel in the heat of the moment? I was in the car with my boyfriend the other night, when another car began to tailgate him, instead of backing off, my boyfriend decided to “teach the guy a lesson” (as he always likes to do—this is his character trait). He starts to drive slower, slams the breaks, flicks them off…which I feel does nothing but escalate the situation. What does this say of him and his character? He is an inciter. Whereas I am a diffuser—I say anything to make him back-off. I asked my boyfriend what he feels during these moments and he says, he feels thrilled—like he can fly, like he can do anything, whereas I feel real, very palpable fear for our safety and want nothing more than to escape the situation. This is an example of two very different ways your characters can react to the same situation. 

     4. You can’t over-use facial expressions and body language!

a.       Talk about showing versus telling! You can use this trick to define the mood of the scene by describing how your character is reacting in between the lines. Don’t tell us how they feel, show us! Describe their body language, their facial expressions and reactions. This trick immediately pulls (and keeps) readers into the situation. [Stay tuned for my next VIDEO blog where I talk about the different ways to use this valuable tool!]

In Part 2 I will give you even more tips and tricks for creating memorable characters—starting with highlighting different types of heroes and villains! 

Do you have a tip you'd like to share?

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  1. I like your suggestions. It kinda reminded me of when I first met my girlfriend and her attitude of "Show me, don't tell me". I guess I did a good job cuz it's 6 years later! I definitely try to use that attitude in my writing.

    1. I guess so, Michael! And I concur with your girlfriend. :) That's great! Thanks for the comment.


  2. I would suggest understanding the archetypes and their mask/function combination is important. Watch the video here:

    1. This is very interesting! Thank you for sharing. Will definitely watch the video.

      Also, I didn't know that I had the option of getting anonymous comments.. :) Glad for your drop-in though!



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