Creating compelling characters for your manuscript can be a daunting task. In order to retain your reader’s interest, you must craft interesting, full-bodied characters. New York Times best-selling author Kathleen Grissom (The Kitchen House, Glory Over Everything) emphatically believes that her characters make themselves known to her, and they “tell” her what to write about them. All writers are not that fortunate, so when creating the essential people in your work, think about the character as a whole, not simply how they react to others in a specific situation. Make them real. Create a childhood for them. What are their core beliefs? What are their dreams? Were they bullied, or were they popular? Build their identity mentally, as well as physically.
Which character is more interesting to read about?
Katharine was a statuesque, willowy blonde with large emerald-green eyes fringed by dark, impossibly long lashes. Her fine cheekbones and cupids bow mouth accentuated her beauty, but she exuded sadness, and her general demeanor was that of defeat. She wore no makeup or jewelry with her high-waisted, calf-length tan dress with low-heeled chocolate suede boots. She entered the theater quickly, and peered behind her, as if to see if she were being followed. OR: Katharine was tall and thin, and she was frowning when she entered the theater.
The difference is dramatic to prove a point. One-dimensional characters aren’t memorable, and your prospective reader won’t be drawn to find out more. When delving into a new book, readers need to envision the character, and be drawn into their lives. The most successful (fiction) books are ones where you forget the cast of characters aren’t real.
A Method To The Madness
UK-based author Lacey Dearie has published 37 books, and enjoys more than seventeen thousand followers on Twitter, and she shared her methods with eBooks2go. She explains “For the main players I have detailed files. Here I write everything about them, usually before the story starts. When I say everything, I mean everything! It goes right down to their secret wishes.” For Dearie, developing non-humans is a piece of cake. One example she uses is a personified doughnut, “A doughnut is entirely believable as a character if he feels really proud of his sugar topping, is best friends with the chocolate doughnut next to him in the display case, and he even squirts a little jam when he gets embarrassed. That’s the kind of thing that people connect with, but they don’t know why. It reminds them of childhood tales. It makes them laugh and it sparks their own imaginations. If everything’s a bit too real, that appeals to a different kind of person. I’ve had my stories described as “awkward and weird”, and I’m trying to reach the people who love quirky characters.”
Jameson, The Bad Angel
Another UK-based author, India Taylor writes poems and short stories, as well as books. Her favorite genre is horror, and she states that Jameson (a bad angel from Bite Me: All Angels Go to Heaven ; he enjoys women, liquor and, well, sin in general) was her favorite character, “I had lots of fun developing him. The term ‘it’s fun to be bad’ comes to mind because he’s not very good at being good.”
She continues, “I think there are a lot of things that contribute to the development of characters. They take some traits from people that I know or have met, people on television, and probably other author’s characters. I get a lot of my influences from dreams and nightmares, which have always been vivid and memorable, and I spend a lot of time daydreaming (or staring into space). Their backstory comes partly from where I want the story to go, aiding the plot and making connections, but it feels more like they evolve on their own without any intervention. Their stories, their history, and relationships feel real. They have to be just as vulnerable as everyone else in my life and when I’m finished, I usually find that I’ve fallen in love with them just a little bit.”
Reading, Taylor says, is one way for newbies to find ideas and inspiration for their characters. “Read fiction, read about the craft of writing, read about publishing, read everything. I would like to add that if you review everything you read then you will make friends with other authors and they will all give you advice, whether they mean to or not, and you should listen to all of it even if you don’t act on it. I learn so many new things each day that by the end of the week I’ve changed the way I work,” said Taylor.
Craft your characters, fall in love with them, and allow eBooks2go to assist you in sharing them with the world!
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