Sunday, January 19, 2014

Adding Depth to Characters

     Both of the links below are recent posts about adding depth to characters.  The first one focuses on the female characters and the second focuses on male characters.  The main point in both is to avoid making your characters too "perfect".  They argue that girls can have crooked teeth and small eyes and that men don't have to be perpetually heroic and self-sacrificing.

Scribblings of My Pen and Tappings of My Keyboard.: Gorgeous Sheildmaidens and Love Interests

       Character development is something that I am still learning.  When I was younger, my characters had no purpose other than to say whatever I needed somebody to say. 
     For example, I have 3 characters in the room.  Somebody needs to say "oh, no!" now.  Whose turn is is to talk?  Well, since #1 and #2 have done most of the talking so far, I will let #3 say "oh, no!" 
     See?  My characters did not have their own personalities.  They were just pawns for their author.
     As I got older, my next step was to assign characteristics to my characters.  They took part in the action and the dialogue as their personality dictated.  However, as I was first learning, each character was pretty flat, having only one or two dominating characteristics. 
     For example: #1 is always patient, #2 is always easily excitable, #3 is pessimistic, and so on.
     This helped my characters to be their own individuals.  You could count on #2 to always overract in any situation, and #3 would always imagine the worst possible outcome.  However, the characters were still pretty flat.
     Now, I am trying to create characters that are more like real people.
     I still don't claim to be an expert on character development but here is my tip:

Pattern them after real people.

      That sounds like a no-brainer...and it is.  I find that first-hand experience is the very best to write from.  If you want to write about a baseball game, go see one.  Understand how it feels, smells, tastes, sounds, looks.  Know what it is like to be there from beginning to finish.
       The same thing applies to characters.  If you want a real character, base him/her off of people you know well.  What is your dad like?  How would he react in the situations in your book?  How about your mom, sisters, brothers, friends, coworkers?
      Pay attention to the people you know.  What are their strengths and weaknesses?  What is some task that they are good at?  What is something that annoys them?  Really learn to notice things about them.
      You can make up a list of characteristics for characters, but if it is not based off of real people it can be just as unrealistic as my flat ones or somebody's overly perfect ones.

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