Writing Insights: Characters

I like to call myself a writer and although I have a long way to go ( a loooong way to go) I have learned a lot on my journey so far. I’m certainly no expert and don’t have a whole lot of wisdom to share but I thought I’d share my insights thus far.

Now let’s preface this post by saying my  ‘Writing Insights’ posts won’t appeal to everyone so feel free to click on now, for the rest of you let’s talk about what I’ve learned about characters.

When writing fiction there are many important factors to consider, but if you wanted to break it down to absoulte basics I would have to say there are two main factors that are integral to any piece of fiction; plot and characters.

The way I see it, if you don’t have a strong plot, there is no story and if you don’t have strong characters you have nothing worth writing about.

I’m very much a character driven reader and writer. When I pick up a book I want to be drawn into the the story by the characters. I want them to speak to me by leaping off the page and appearing before me in a hologram. Well, almost. My point is, I want them to be real, somewhat relateable and I want them to be genuine. I want to them to evoke emotion.

With my current work in progress I have been drawn very much into the emotions of the characters; their thoughts, actions and reactions to events in the book is important. But that is not enough.

For characters to be real they need to much more than just emotional, they need to be multidimensional.

So here’s what I’ve learned about developing multidimensional characters.

0 They need to be described and by this I mean as in their physical appearance. The reader needs to form a picture in their head of the character. Hair colour, eye colour, nationality, height, weight, build, striking features, notable features are all important.

0 They need to be unique. A personality trait that is memorable. It might be a nervous habit such as a twitchy eye or playing with their wedding ring, or it may be how they react to situations with unique and consistent body language.

0 They need a back story. Where did they come from? What made them who they are today? Of course this may be revealed as part of the story but if not the reader needs to be given this information to help form a truly whole character.

0 They need to be consistent in their thinking and reactions. Unless the story line requires otherwise, characters are people and people are usually very set in their ways.

0 They need to be flawed. Most fiction is built around flawed characters but this isn’t a given. The protagonist may be a ‘good guy’ but even ‘good guys’ have flaws; they are only human. They may not be integral to move the story forward but flaws are necessary to make a character believable and relatable.

 

I’m learning more and more about my characters each day and as I write I am also seeing gaps in my character development. At this point, 3/4 of the way through my manuscript, I am not attempting to rectify this, for me that will be part of the editing progress. I don’t think any authors would say their characters were fully explored or developed in the first draft. I’m content though, that I am realising this the more I write; it gives me hope that there will be improvement in draft number two!

 

Tell me, as a reader or a writer what is the one thing that you feel most important in the characters you read/write?