Now that your character has a name, it’s time to breath some life into them. You want them to be real to readers. You want them to be memorable. But right now, you just want them to be.
It can be a struggle to create a convincing character, so I’ve come up with eight questions to ask that will get your characters breathing and walking around in no time. 😉
What do they look like?
It may be easiest to start with physical appearance. It’s fun to imagine what color hair and eyes they have, how tall they are–to give them a scar or a smattering of freckles across their cheeks. There really aren’t rules for this. Just make sure that all your characters don’t look the same.
If you’re having trouble picturing how a character will look, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to character inspiration.
What movements/gestures are they in a habit of doing?
Adding a movement that your character is in a habit of doing is a simple way to bring them to life. Maybe they swinging their hands wildly while talking or raise and lower their eyebrows a lot.
Adding significance to this movement will bring depth to your character. Don’t just decide that they will twist their ring when they are feeling nervous, but have that ring be a gift from their father. So every time they touch it they are given courage.
What are they good at?
All of your characters (even the villain) needs to be skilled at something. Some skills should serve their place in the story. A detective should be good at finding clues. A soldier in a fantasy will be skilled with a sword. A thief good at stealing. You get the idea.
But your character should have a skill that doesn’t serve the plot. Your characters won’t seem real if they fit too perfectly in their role. People don’t have only a single goal in their life (to find the culprit, to slay the bad guy). They have multiple goals and multiple interests.
Sarah J. Maas does this in her book A Court of Thorns and Roses. The main character is an excellent hunter, which serves the plot because it gets her into trouble with an angry faerie who takes her away to his land, but she is also an artist who dreams of nothing more than the day when she can lay her bow down and spend her days painting.
Not only does this make the character real, but it gives the character something to hope for beyond the plot. Characters don’t come alive when they only exist for the story.
What are their flaws?
If you don’t give your characters flaws, you’ll end up with a Superman; really good at everything, but really boring. People can’t relate to characters without flaws because they, and everyone they’ve ever met, are flawed.
Flaws not only make characters relatable, but can serve to get them in some tight spots that make the story interesting. Maybe they are good at swinging their sword around but are terrible at being diplomatic, and their blunt words get them into trouble over and over. Or maybe their tendency to overestimate their ability causes them to rush into situations that leave them in a bind or causes setbacks from reaching their goal.
What is surprising about them?
It’s easy to get caught up in character cliches. The thief is sneaky, sly, and always wears a crooked grin. The wizard is wise and eccentric. The princess hates fancy dresses, balls, and anything to do with being a princess and just wants to wear boys clothes and beat people up.
Surprise your readers with something about your stereotypical character that is out of place. Maybe the thief is clumsy. Maybe the wizard is really good at magic, but terrible at giving advice. Maybe the princess likes fancy dresses and isn’t good at fighting at all, but she has this strange habit of slipping the jewels off of guests’ wrists and fingers because she loves the thrill it brings her.
Real people don’t fit neatly into little boxes, so neither should your characters.
The next three questions will really make your characters real to readers, so don’t miss next week’s post. 🙂
Until then Epic Dreamers!
This is part of a series on characters.
Creating a Character Arc
Introducing Your Characters