One of the greatest joys about writing is the bond you form with your characters. You have free range over their entire lives, which is essentially the best control one could ever have! As strange as it sounds, these imaginary beings often become quite good friends and at the conclusion of a novel, you are bound to feel quite emotional at finishing your journey together. I have a character in my (working) second manuscript who I know will break my heart when I type the final word in their story. This is what writing does to you.
For today’s post, I thought I would offer some simple “Character-building” tips of which I have come to utilise over the course of my writing history. These are key elements that I know help when it comes to designing a unique character, untainted by too much existing fictional voices.
So, in creating a character, think about the following:
Interesting/strange/humorous people you already know…
I often start here. There are so many colourful people in each of our lives that it seems absurd not to consider ways they may be incorporated into a novel, poem or short story. One of my most recent short story characters was a combination of fiction, my grandmother and my great-aunt. You see, by building upon habits, funny moments and/or unique appearance, you are able to extract a completely individual voice, different from already existing ones.
Is your character original?
So often I feel that people are “too” inspired by past, successful characters. Yes, the personality of Katniss Everdeen may have been the base of your latest design, but that doesn’t mean your protagonist should have a dark braid, be a hunter in some foreign village and have no father. Using someone else’s ideas for your own, personal benefit can be fun, but will ultimately weaken the originality of your tone. Instead, pick a trait from a character you admire and apply that in some way to your own. If, say, you appreciate the strong nature of Katniss, put your own twist on this and personalise it. After all, I (and I’m sure the rest of the reading world) want to read something fresh, not something recycled with no originality.
Would I see your character in a crowd of people?
Fictional characters must have defining features that mark them as human beings. Even the most plain, dull individuals have something about them that makes them stand out. It could be their washed-out clothes, their drawn face or downcast eyes. When constructing a character, it is imperative that you look at them as more than words on a page, but also as living beings. To say, “… she had brown hair and blue eyes,” doesn’t tell me anything about the character because I know many people with brown hair and blue eyes. Instead, select a point of difference for each person you create. Ask yourself if there is anything more you can add to, “… blue eyes,” or, “… brown hair.”
I hope these tips help and I would love to hear your feedback! If you ever need any advice, I am happy to respond and help you 🙂