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.
There are days I hesitate to sit down to write because I feel apprehensive as to whether or not I will have the words to continue the chapter I am working on. It’s as though I’m standing in front of a fruit tree staring up at the perfect piece of fruit. If only I could access it. But, how to do that? Ah-ha! a ladder you say? What if there is no ladder? Then what?
So, I sit down to write anyway. The screen is staring back at me. Ideas are filling my brain, but which option do I choose? Should I have my character do this? Or that? Maybe another option would be better. The perfect scene is there. I just can’t access it because the way to go about reaching it isn’t available. So I start to wonder if I will ever think of what to do.
Then I wonder if I’m thinking to much about it. Maybe the idea will present itself if I stop trying so hard. So I start writing something…anything…and see what happens. Tip, tip, tip…my fingers fly over the key board. All at once, the ideas flow. A wind picks up and the fruit starts falling from the tree on its own. And that perfect piece of fruit that I wasn’t able to reach before? Well, it just landed in my hands. The direction of where I wanted my chapter to go just presented itself on its own. Yes!!!
Seriously though, I have days like that. There are also some days my mind doesn’t want to write anything. That’s ok. It’s your minds way of prompting you to do something else so it can come up with creative story ideas while you rest it. Remember the movie, Field of Dreams? Kevin Costner’s character was told to build the field and they would come. So, give your mind a rest and the imagination will stir.
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.
If you are an author, whether you are experienced or not, sometimes talking to someone you trust (implicitly) about your story ideas can help you tremendously. I know that’s very simple advice, and maybe you already knew that. But it’s a good reminder. I never would have come up with the story I did for my first book had I not confided in my creative writing professor. Sometimes we need that nudge. So, if you are on the fence about a piece of writing you are working on, hash it out with a trusted friend.
Have you ever wondered what a story/movie would be like if there were no clashing forces going against the main character? It would be boring to the point there would be no story. Not really anyway. Believe it or not villains create that extra zing of emotion for the reader/viewer to the point we sometimes feel as though we’re in the story/movie.
I finished reading a book a few days ago that had me talking back to the characters, and I mean saying things like, “Really? Don’t you see it has nothing to do with terrorism?” At one point I said, “Oh my gosh, this author.” My husband asked, “What?” To which I responded with, “The author drug this out way to much.” Actually, the author did his job, and he did it well. The villains were smug, very smug, and they thought they had everything going the way they wanted it to. Well, they did. The reader (this reader) wanted them to get what was coming to them (and they did eventually). That folks is story, suspense, emotion building writing.
So remember….when you are creating your villains, make sure to give them lots of tender loving care. You want them to connect with the reader too.
The book I spoke of above is linked below just in case you might want to read it. It’s book 5 in the Alton Blackwell Files series by Steven F. Freeman.
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.
Dare I say walk away, or dare to fight with fists upright, whate’er I do one will not like, and come to me with verbal strike, you I do please not, tis my sense on the spot, but a snare you do fix, in hopes you’ll get your kicks,
But I have sense, I’m not that tense, My peace is of mind, So to you I may be kind, and move to walk away, but instead fight today, A mood that is so rare, Fight? Do I dare?
Your pen (or keyboard) is your sword, and the words are the blood that’s shed as a result of wielding your words onto the page. Words have impact. It doesn’t matter what that impact is. Whether they create horror, harshness, love, peace, or fear; they have impact. You are the person in charge of creating that impact. So what kind of thrust to you want to use to create that impact?
You can make something everyday appear abnormal, or you could choose something abnormal or bazaar to appear normal or everyday. It’s all in the words you choose. How you wield your words is up to you. It’s your story, your voice, your personality. Write the words you want to write the way YOU want to write them.