There are many things that a writer has to keep in mind, especially when it comes to writing a novel. While I was thinking of what I could say to you today, I finally rested on the idea of characterization, because it is something that is so vital to your story. Though each writer has their own way of doing things, I would just like to point out some things that I like to consider, and that I find important when it comes to creating a well-rounded character.
Personality – For me, having a distinct personality is a huge must when it comes to creating a character. Whether you are the type of author who lets the characters lead you, or you shape your own characters, each and every character has to be distinct. Make sure that each character stands out! I think the most boring thing in a book is having to read about someone who has now definite persona, nothing that makes them that person. Each character needs to be unique. Include quirks, frequent mistakes, imperfections! Nobody likes to read about a blah character, even if the story is great.
Appearance – Something I always try to do is describe how a character looks early on. I am a very visual person, and when I am reading a book I like to know what the character looks like! Not only should you remember to describe how the character looks, you should also remember to do it early. It’s always disconcerting when you make it half-way through the book thinking the character looks one way, and then all the sudden the actor includes something that totally changes everything. If you’ve been picturing the heroin as a blond, you don’t want to find out suddenly that she is actually a brunette.
Clothing – This goes along with appearance, but I think it is so important that it needed its own category. This isn’t as big of a deal if your characters live in the here and now, and it would be pointless to go into a lengthy discussion of what a person’s wardrobe looked like. But, if you are writing a fantasy that happens in a world completely unrelated to the world we know, then you’d better make sure you include at least a general description of what clothing in that world looks like, even if you just say they made their own clothes. That at least would give the reader an idea. This can be a difficult thing to include sometimes, but it is so important. I had a problem with this in the trilogy have written and have yet to publish. Here I was, picturing my characters in lavish and incredible clothing, something between medieval and woodsy, and yet I realized at some point that I have never actually included that in the story! What if someone had been picturing them in, oh, 1980s gym clothes? Dramatic example, yes, but think about it! While it is nice to leave some things to the reader’s imagination, sometimes you just have to help them out a little and tell them right out.
Age – Another important thing to include, and keep straight, is the age of your characters. This might seem like a “duh” sort of thought, but really, it is an important thing to consider. Sometimes it is hard to tell where to place the character are you are reading if the author has not outright given you at least a hint at the age of the character. Knowing the age will enhance the appearance, as well as the personality that you include.
Back story – I always think it is important to give some back story on each character. You have to know a bit about them and where they are coming from. In some cases it would completely change how you thought about a character. If the main character is a goody-two-shoes, then hooray for them, but, if the main character is a goody-two-shoes who used to be a criminal, then that is an entirely different story! Let your readers know what has gone on in the character’s life. This of course doesn’t have to be revealed all at once. In fact, I like to gradually add things about my characters as a story progresses. Either way, make sure you tell the reader who they are dealing with at some point in the story. This is especially important when you want to show that your characters have grown, learned, or changed.
Now this list probably seems pretty obvious, but I think all of these things are important to actively think about as you are writing. Detail is so important! Each and every bit of detail you give about a character adds to the image of that character that forms in the reader’s mind as they go through the story. Don’t just tell the brilliant story you have come up with. Make sure your characters are as brilliant, intriguing, and interesting as the story, or the reader will never make it to the end.
Heidi Nicole Bird has been writing for as long as she can remember and it is her favorite thing in the world. Heidi is a regular NaNoWriMo participant and is mostly a young adult fantasy writer, but also likes to write juvenile fiction and other genres. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Brigham Young University and she looks forward to exploring the genre of historical fiction. Heidi lives in Utah with her family and three dogs, and loves working from home as a full time writer. To learn more visit heidinicolebird.blogspot.com.