How many times have you been part of a group or team where there is at least one person who has to be a stickler for keeping things on track? They correct you if they feel you’re wrong, and/or make sure everything is done right. I think it’s a rule of life that every group has to have someone like this in their life in order to keep everyone on track whether it’s their job or not (I’m laughing here, because I know people like this). These people can (but not always) cause tension in your story. So if you want to spice things up a bit, included one of these types of characters within your story.
Have you ever read a book, and you liked the characters so much that you didn’t want the book to end? Oh yes, I’ve been down that road myself. That means the author did their job of creating characters that stand out and touch your heart. But, how did they do that?
- Their characters displayed emotion to the point that the reader ‘felt’ right along with them.
- The character displayed a habit or two. This personalizes the character, makes them human.
- The character was relatable. We as a reader could identify with that character. We may have understood what they were experiencing. If not, then we could at least feel for them and/or root for them.
- The dialogue sounded real and not mechanical or robotic. Maybe they made you laugh or cry.
These are just some of the elements a writer uses in order to bring a richness to their characters. Take your time developing them. Observe people around you and jot down notes of things you see or hear them say or do.
Below is a list of character flaws you might find helpful when creating characters for your story. It always helps to consult a reference when the mind goes blank and you can’t think of enough possible ideas. My article I published on January 18, 2021 called Character Flaws goes into more detail about this topic.
- user of others
Have you ever finished reading a book of fiction and were disappointed it ended? And was part of that disappointment because you were going to miss the characters? You actually liked the characters so much you didn’t want the story to end. You enjoyed your time with them. Why do you think you liked them so much?
The answer is very simple. The author did a fantastic job creating them. But how were they able to be that effective in their creation? It lies in the attention to detail. It goes beyond physical appearance. Go deep within your characters, their minds: how they think, feel, react to certain things, mannerisms. Study other people around you and make notes in a journal. What do you like and dislike about them? Make a list of habits and choose some for your character to have.
Also, consistency is a huge key to creating believable characters. Don’t have them be unafraid of spiders in one chapter and afraid of them in the next. Don’t give them one habit in the first part of the book and it not be their habit in another part of the book. That will only serve to frustrate the reader, and they’ll put the book/story down.
You won’t know if your readers will like your characters or not, but if you do your job and pay attention to detail, the chances of them having such an impact on the reader will go up.
As a kid people always told me how quiet I was (I still am). It surprised me (and still does) that some have a problem with that. The truth is, being quiet is part of my personality. If there is something to say, I’ll say it. I’m not the only quiet human. There are others. But there are times when I’m not. I like to be goofy and joke around, just not all the time.
What I’ve noticed though, after my dad pointed this out, when I am quiet, I am observing other people. How they talk, their mannerisms, their physical attributes, their speech patterns, everything; I take in everything. Here again, that’s how I have always been. Does this mean I observe everything around me? No. LOL. My husband is good at that. We compliment each other in that way.
If you are creating characters, be mindful of them (their mannerisms, physical attributes, language, etc.). Observe other people and write down what you observe in a character journal so you can use that information later when creating a scene/chapter in your story/novel. Or if you’re in the process of creating a character, those observations can come in handy.
How do you choose names for your characters? Do you merely assign them a name without giving much thought to it? Do you use a process? There are quite a few things one can do to assign names to their characters. I’ve used a baby names book. Looking names lists online works too. If your character is of another culture or country whose names are different than those used in your own, some baby names books have lists of common names used in different countries.
In one of my pieces of writing I used characters of 4 real life people. I asked them permission first. Please, if you are ever going to do this, ask that person or persons permission to use them in your book/story. When I was renaming these 4 people for my story, I tried to choose names that fit their personalities. Trust me, this wasn’t as easy as it may have appeared to be. One gentleman helped me with that, so that one was easy enough to put a name to. The other three took some thinking. I got my baby names book out and browsed male names. I thought of each person individually and then tried out a name on them. I went through several before settling on some that worked well and matched each of their personalities. There was only one problem. One of the guys I couldn’t think of a name for. At all. So I, for the time being, left his name alone and used his real name until I could think of one that suited him. FINALLY, after writing 25 chapters, I thought of the perfect name for him. Of course, I had to go back and change his name throughout the manuscript, but it was worth the wait.
Most often you’re not going to use real people. But the same thing still rings true. The people you make up will have personalities and you will have to choose a name that fits that personality. Also, if you are going to assign a name to a character that sounds funny or out of place, you might want to explain why they were given that name by making that part of your story. For example, if you give one of your female characters the name of Spunky Dickson (a funny name for a female anyway), have the character tell why her parents named her that. Maybe the whole story centers around that. Maybe Spunky is a nickname.
Have fun choosing names for your characters. Don’t make it a chore. Work with it and mold it into your story.
This is when the main character finds himself/herself going up against a vengeful god/being or other supernatural force. A ghost comes to mind here.
Who hasn’t read a good ghost story or seen a spooky movie? This conflict deals with man versus something other worldly. Yes, that means ghosts/spirits. The Amityville Horror Movies are great examples. Do you like ghost stories? I do. To a point. I’d rather watch one that read one though.
Book Examples with Man vs. Supernatural Conflict
1. Seven Sisters (book series) by M. L. Bullock (I highly recommend this series).
2. The Amityville Horror
3. Prodigal by Judy K. Walker
4. The Vanished Series by B. B. Griffith
5. The Ripper by Jon F. Merz
This type of conflict is between a character and their inner self. Don’t we go through this type of struggle on a regular basis?
1. Lack of self-confidence
2. The feeling of guilt when you do something against what you normally would do.
3. Love conflict: When you hurt someone you love.
4. The struggle of having to do something you don’t want to do but have to do. A great example of this is in Lord of the Rings when Frodo struggles with his destiny of having to destroy the ring.
Other Movie Examples of Man vs. Self
1. Buzz Lightyear in the first Toy Story movie. He’s a toy but doesn’t realize he’s a toy.
2. In the movie UP, Carl Fedricksen the grumpy old man is cynical and struggles with the cynicism that has encompassed him and the adventurous spirit he once was.
3. Tangled. Rapunzel struggles with wanting to stay in the tower or defy her mother and venture outside and leave the tower.
Part 2 focuses on the type of Person vs. Society conflict. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne comes to mind. In this story (set in the 1600’s) Hester Prynne, the main character, receives public shaming when she, a married woman, has a child out of wedlock.
Another example would be To Kill a Mockingbird. This book is from the point of view of a young girl named Scout. It follows her “from innocence to experience when her father confronts the racist justice system of the rural, Depression era South.”
What can you do to make your characters stand out as individuals? Well, there are quite a bit of strategies you can try, but two of the most popular ones to try are to give you characters habits and certain mannerisms. Think outside the box with this. Get creative. I say this because, one of the things you want to avoid is making your characters like everyone else.
Maybe you have a character who, when they are deep in thought, not only creases their brows together, but they also place a hand on their hip and scratch their cheek with the other at the same time. Then they lean on their other hip, place their opposite hand on that hip and scratch their other cheek with their other hand.
Yes, one would normally call this fidgeting, but it is very specific and the reader gets to see just how they fidget. The details of these movements causes this character to stand out. That’s what you want.