Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ A few things to remember when creating characters…
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
Characterization is not my strength. I’m more of a plot-driven writer, but I realize that the two are equally important. (Some feel that characterization is the most important, but without a strong plot, I’m not going to give a rat’s behind about your character, regardless of how interesting they might be) So, I am trying to remind myself of ways to make my characters more real, more vivid. Characterization is much more than physical description, and even background or favorite foods and music. Of course, there are a multitude of things you can do to flesh out your characters–character profiles, interviews, charts, etc. I’m not going into that much detail, but I do have a few suggestions (things that I need to remember myself)…
- Give your characters, mainly your MC (Main Character aka Protagonist) and your villain, a quirk, a certain way of speaking, etc. Maybe give them a catch phrase or a habit like chewing on a straw. Also, give them strange little quirks, such as an aversion to slimy foods or a fear of birds or have them like something that others would find odd, such as the taste of castor oil or give them an irrational hatred of something (such as, for me, I can’t STAND the Muppets). Little things like this can make your character more alive in your own mind, and therefore, you will more likely project them in a more vivid way in your story.
- This has been drilled into our heads over and over, but it bears repeating. Give your MC flaws and your villain at least one admirable quality. I have difficult giving my characters flaws that are still relatable/understandable/sympathetic. I find it easier to give my villains a positive trait. Weird, right? I’ve often been told that readers found it easier to relate to my villains than my protagonists. NOT a good thing. I am working on changing that though. 🙂
What do you think? What are some elements of character you feel are important?
Until next time…happy writing!
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*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible.
How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
*** Warning – Please do not purchase without reading a sample. (This is solid advice for any book, fiction or non. If you are not intrigued in the sample, you will likely not enjoy the book)
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22 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Quick Characterization Tips”
Excellent points, Ally! I think my most interesting heroine is Grace from Every Step She Takes. Probably because she has a LOT of flaws inherited from the first book in the series before I knew she would have her own story. Surprisingly, I enjoyed working with those flaws and giving her an in-depth backstory as a reason behind them. I loved her hard edginess. BUT, while I had reviewers say she was very, very real, I also had a few say she was unlikable. So a heads up to not make your protagonists too flawed. Some readers might not be able to relate.
That’s so true. That’s where I have trouble, giving characters flaws without making them unlikable. It’s a very fine line. 🙂 I also meant to add that it’s a good idea to give them some kind of reason for the flaws and maybe even the quirks, if you can work it in. Thanks for stopping by and for the head’s up!
I think foreshadowing character traits is important. For example, one villain I wrote into a novel seemed like a perfect gentleman and mensch, except that when he smiled, his eyes remained wintry ( or cold or steely or his lips smiled but his eyes did not). So…when his villainy is revealed, the reader is not blindsided. Thanks for your tips–good as always!
Great idea, planting something to ‘show’ the character of a character. 🙂 Thanks so much!
Excellent advice. Villains without a redeeming quality often strike me as cardboard – one dimensional. Thanks for the post!
They do for me as well, Ashantay. You’re welcome…thanks for stopping by!
Great tips! I need to keep these in mind.
Thanks for sharing!
Good luck and God’s blessings.
You’re welcome…thank you!
Great tips and timely because I’m creating a villain for a new story and have to figure a positive trait.
Super…I’m glad the timing worked for you. 🙂 Good luck!
Great post as always, Alicia! Apart from quirks and flaws, I think humor or how the characters decipher it makes them instantly relatable. For instance, a young, sassy heroine peppering her talk with reality TV references, leaving the brooding hero staring at her or even misinterpreting her. I take advantage of my heroes Greekness, and I make them mess up the English language a bit, creating misunderstandings or eliciting corrections. That brings an alpha hero down a peg or two unless he can turn the tables, like in the following:
“I didn’t get my feel,” he said.
I grinned. “Fill.”
“What did I say?”
“You keep saying the same word. How about I cop a feel?”
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Haha, yes, good point. Humor is always a nice touch. Love the exchange!
Yes, it is definitely a fine line, because what one reader finds acceptable, another reader will find unforgivable. Some will see a caring character as weak and won’t allow for behavior that they may find perfectly reasonable in real life, but for some reason see as unbelievable in fiction. But your tips definitely will get people to feel something about your character–positive or negative, and that means they are involved in the story, which is good. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!
So true. And you won’t please everyone. But, we just have to do our best to round them out and let the chips fall where they may, right? 🙂 You are so welcome…thank you!
Great tips, as always! I love developing and writing characters, but I have to fight to maintain (or…uh remember!) their unique voices. 🙂
That’s definitely tricky! Thanks, Leah.
But it’s hard to come up with good flaws that don’t erode your character’s heroism. 😦 I can give my male characters flaws a lot more easily than my heroine, though. Make her too flawed and she’s not someone anyone would care about. Make her too weak, she’s annoying. Too strong, she’s annoying. Can you give any examples of flaws you’ve given your heroines??
Thank you, Alicia!
You are SO right, Kimberly. I think our heroines are held up to a higher standard. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily flaws you give them as it is having them make mistakes. I konw what you mean about the too strong/too weak thing. I have been told about my Isle of Fangs vampire hunter, Liberty, that she learned her hunter skills too quickly and by someone else that she was wimpy and hadn’t developed enough. We just have to do our best to make them real and relatable. As for flaws I’ve given my heroines, as I said, I don’t do a great job with this, but I’m working on it. 🙂 My most flawed heroine was Eliza in Ruined. She was a liar and a prostitute. She did both in the course of the story. I don’t think I had anyone say they didn’t like her. With my Heart of the Witch, my heroine was emotionless. In Without Mercy, my heroine was not doing a great job of juggling single motherhood and her job. But, more importantly, in her efforts to protect her daughter, she made a few mistakes that had dire consequences, including getting a very close friend killed. In my current WIP, my heroine not only has a few odd idiosyncrasies, and a condition called misophonia, which makes her become very annoyed by irritating eating noises, etc (Which is an actual condition, which I have myself), but she’s also not all that ambitious. Even though she’s a good cop, she doesn’t try to move up or go beyond her job duties. In each of these instances, my characters had pretty valid reasons for these flaws, but they are flawed, nonetheless. Does that help?
One more thing…I have a list of character flaws that might help you come up with some things to attribute to your characters. I will email it to you.
Um…can I just say WOW and reading about the deep issues you took on makes me really want to read your books to see how you helped these women grow!!
Thanks so much for the list. I got it. 🙂
ps I LOVE your blog and two-minute-tips!
Love the tip. I like taking a positive trait to extreme (for the villain).
Yes, I LOVE doing that. 🙂 Thanks, Diane!