Friday, March 19, 2010

Character Building 101: People, Not Names

Every writer knows that a story is not a story unless it's got good characters. Lovable (or unlovable) characters can make readers really love your book. Just remember one little rule about creating characters: Try to make them more than just names on paper. If variety is the spice of life, then personality is the spice of character building. There are a few tricks you can use to make characters better and unique, some of which I have used when creating the characters from my book: Sophia, Del, Philippe, and the Countess. By the way, I'll be using them as my examples.

Trick #1: Opposites
Characters that have personalities that are opposite of each other give your story some chemistry. Characters with opposite personalities can hate each other (like Philippe and the Countess) or they can get along perfectly (like Sophia and Del). Allow me to explain...
The Countess- meanest person on the face of the Earth. She never does anything for anyone else unless there's something in it for her and cares only for herself. So, if the Countess is the person that won't do anything for others, Philippe is the guy that's going to bend over backwards for anyone. He's very kind hearted and generous. He would always be the first to help someone who came to him in need, which kind of explains how Sophia gets mixed into this. Remember, opposite personalities can get along too. Del and Sophia are like sisters, but are completely different. Sophia is quiet, a little shy, and used to being on her own. She doesn't really want to get noticed and tries to stay under the radar. Del, on the other hand, has a personality up in the stratosphere. She's not afraid to put herself out there and stand up for herself. Unlike quiet Sophia, who tries to stay in the background, Del is more of "Look out world, here I come!" Opposite personalities are fun to play around with to see how the different personalities will react to one another. It's just like chemistry class, without things blowing up and burning your eyebrows.

Trick #2: Recognizable
Give your characters personalities that are recognizable and readers can connect to. This way your characters seem more real because when readers see it they will think "I know someone like that." It's okay for characters to have wild personalities that are out of this world, that just makes your characters even more outstanding.

Trick #3: Weakness
Remember, no one is invincible although we may want it to be that way sometimes. Characters are still human (most of the time, unless you're a fantasy writer) and everybody has weaknesses. Example #2- Sophia is a bit of an emotional wreck. On top of that, she's plagued with fears of her mistress, the Countess. Philippe is suffering from a broken heart and tends to let his gentlemanly (is that a word?) qualities stop him from fighting back when he should. Del is stubborn beyond belief. She's doesn't like letting people help her do anything; she has to prove she can do it herself. Weakness helps your characters grow and develop as people.

Trick #4: Inner Conflict
Everybody has things going on in their lives that no else knows about. The same should go for your characters. Conflict gives depth and gets readers to sympathize with your characters and what their going through. Simple as that.

Trick #5: Emotion
Another way to add depth is through emotion. If you want to make your characters people, they need to have feelings. Again, emotions help readers relate to characters and let them seem more real. When it comes to writing emotion, it's better to show than tell. It's way better to say "Her vision blurred as tears flowed freely down her cheeks and she erupted into pained sobs," than it is to say "She was sad."

It's as simple as that. Good characters need emotion, conflict, and weakness all rolled into one recognizable (or extraordinary) personality. Now, go and bring new characters and stories into the world. Happy Writing!


Mary Campbell said...

great information Tawnni and I love the new look.

Tawnni Jensen said...

And thank you for telling me how to do it! Good luck with your book, I know it'll be awesome! You rock!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog by accident, but I'm so glad I did. Excellent tips! It can be easy to accidentally create a one-dimensional character, and giving them internal conflict and personalities that don't mesh with others is key.

Beautiful page!