Today I have a special guest blogger–Julie Momyer–who will be sharing her secrets for developing realistic characters, who readers will either love to love or love to hate! Julie is the author of Kiss Me Awake, a suspense novel filled with all kinds of diverse and richly developed characters. I asked Julie to please share with my readers her suggested ways for developing the characters in a fiction piece.
Hope you enjoy what she has to share…
Thou Shalt Know Thy Character
Have you ever read a novel where the characters were just names on a page? Where, other than a few descriptive words, you didn’t know anything about them, who they really were, or what made them tick?
Some refer to such characters as flat, lifeless, or one-dimensional. They have a shallow surface and a hollow core like the chocolate Easter bunnies on the store shelves. This happens because the author didn’t take the time to get to know their own characters.
Don’t let this happen to you.
When a reader picks up a book, they are embarking on a journey, and they don’t travel alone. The characters are their companions. They want to know them. Intimately. And the only way this can be accomplished is if the author knows them intimately, first.
Physical descriptions are important to convey: eye color, build, hair length, distinguishing traits, such as a limp and how they acquired it. But if you want your characters to come across as authentic, your primary focus needs to be on their personality, their behaviors, and their life experiences.
Get inside your characters’ head, walk around in their shoes. Take them on like an actor would take on a character on the stage. It’s up to you to determine who they are, what they like, what their skills and desires are, what they are capable of, how they will react under stress, and so on.
How to Get Acquainted with Your Character
One way you can get to know your character is to create a character interview. The questions and answers are simple, similar to those asked in junior high school yearbooks and newspaper interviews:
- Where do you live?
- What was your worst experience?
- What was your best experience?
- What are your favorite foods, music, books, etc?
- What hobbies do you have?
- What are your vices?
- What is your family like?
- Who are your friends?
- What is your biggest fear?
- What are your goals (in this case not a life goal, but the goal in the novel)?
- What is your education and occupation?
Then go a little deeper, and ask yourself about your character. Is your character…
An introvert or an extrovert?
Kind hearted or cold?
An optimist, pessimist, or realist?
Timid or bold?
Intelligent or ignorant?
Intriguing or boring?
Evil or good?
Charming or annoying?
Easygoing or uptight?
Are they sensitive? If so, is their sensitivity directed more toward others or themselves? Or both?
Are they hard and unemotional?
Are they passive or aggressive?
Do they have a strong sense of justice or none at all?
How do they deal with pain or trauma?
If it will contribute to the shaping of the character or further the story, you can go one step further and determine why they are the way they are. For example, if your character is unusually sensitive you can weave the cause of their hypersensitive nature into the story.
These are methods various authors have used to build their character profiles, and are not mandatory to your success. You may choose another route. Some writers flesh out their characters with detailed outlines while others can “feel” who their characters are. In the case of character development, the end justifies the means because all that matters in the end is: Do you know your character?
Thanks, Julie, for sharing about character development today. It’s true that there are many processes that will help you sketch out and develop characters for your stories. What works for one person may not work for another, so you may end up having to try several methods before hitting on one that’s just right for you. But until you know your characters intimately, don’t expect them to be anything but lifeless to your readers. The more you know them, the more your readers will as well.
To read more about Julie, you can visit her author website at http://www.juliemomyer.com (“Fiction for Real Women”). From there, you can check out her blog and read about her book, Kiss Me Awake.