Writing characters can be as complex as the characters themselves and it is important that the writer brings fully formed characters to the page. If we want our readers to be immersed in our stories, the characters need to be realistic and human. They must have wants and needs, flaws and strengths. Our readers have to root for them, for their journey in the story. We, as writers must know our characters. As V.S. Pritchett said ‘Once you know your characters, they’ll tell you their story.’ How do we get to know them, how do we develop them so that our readers can identify with them? Do we interview them, find out their backstory or put them into various scenarios and see what they do? Here I have put together some links to articles and podcasts that explore how best to get to know your characters. I hope they are helpful to you. Remember that no way is set in stone for a writer. You must find what works best for you and your characters.
This free masterclass article has brilliant tips for writing characters. It covers developing a protagonist and antagonist but also the important secondary characters too. Our characters must be interesting and, in this link, Masterclass gives six tips for writing great characters. There are writing exercises here too including a character questionnaire, a one-page character description and writing your character’s inner monologue.
This article talks about creating a character profile and includes an ultimate guide with a downloadable template. Here the character is broken down into three parts – The Outer Layer, The Flesh and The Core. Otherwise known as physical appearance, back story and psychology. The Outer Layer covers the basics like name, age, occupation, physical appearance and speech and communication. The Flesh encourages you to dive deeper into your character and find out what made them who they are in your story today. It covers the past, family and external relationships. The core covers psychology, the present and the future – what’s your characters story motivation and goal.
This great article gives you a twelve-step guide for character development. These include creating your character’s background, giving them strengths and weaknesses, creating nervous ticks, avoiding making a perfect character, and giving them a unique voice. It has links to you tube videos on how to make realistic characters easily and how to create a character profile. There are useful exercises for each of the twelve steps. Also provided are fifty character development questions.
This article discusses how difficult it is to base characters on real people. Where we might take snippets of details from people we know, it’s better to make a fictional character. It talks about creating complex characters through simplicity. It advises the writer to choose just three conflicting attributes and allow these to influence your character’s actions in your story.
- https://www.savannahgilbo.com/blog/crafting-characters Fiction Writing Made Easy. 5 Questions to Help You Write Better Characters.
This short podcast by Savannah Gilbo gives simple step by step strategies that writers can follow. She explains five questions that help the writer to get to the heart of who your character really is. There is also a downloadable worksheet to accompany this podcast.
In this podcast, Mickey Campling recommends writing your characters in different scenarios. Let scenes play out and see how your character would behave, then change the scene slightly and let your character show you their reactions to these situations. He suggests that playing and writing in this way will help you get to know your character. Have fun with your characters. You don’t have to use any of these scenes in your story, they are just getting to know you exercises.
All of this may sound very detailed for your character and you might not even use most of it in your story but it really does help to develop your character. Linda Seger (Creating Unforgettable Characters: A Practical Guide to Character Development) compares the depth of a character to an iceberg. The reader will only see a fraction, maybe 10%, of all that the writer knows about their character. But the remaining 90% is what makes the character feel well-drawn, flawed and real – as though they could live outside of the book itself.
I hope you’ve found Really Useful Links helpful this week and I look forward to bringing you more next week. If there are any particular writing topics you’d like me to cover, get in touch and let me know.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan