Warning: This is a very long post, but I hope it’s helpful at least. I co-wrote this with someone else so I’d appreciate it if you’d check them out on Wattpad. I’ve linked their profile below for your convenience. Also, any further advice will have its own post. This is just a master post of a bunch of small tips and tricks. Thanks for reading and have a nice day/night.
Created by Lumi and Blue.
Are you struggling to write a fully fleshed out character? Are your characters blander than a super sweet strawberry milkshake with no strawberries? Then look no further. This may or may not be the troubleshooting guide for you!
I don’t really understand my character. I’m having trouble writing lines for them and making them stand out from the others. I’m also having trouble figuring out what my character would do in a situation and what actions they’ll make.
You might have a sense of who your character is, like they’re studious, earnest, rude, laid-back, but you’re still having difficulties writing for this person. What you need to do is to flesh them out like they’re a real person. Details are VERY important. Having extra details about someone is what makes them seem alive and not just a personified character archetype with a different name.
First, pull out all the adjectives that generally describe your character’s personality and actions.
Here’s a list to help you: ideonomy.mit.edu/essays/traits.html
This is an important part: You gotta check and make sure you have a clear basis for your character and that you know it well. If you aren’t sure about the basic characteristics of your character, it’s going to be really difficult to flesh them out.
Second, use characterization through adjectives and expressive words and extra details. There’s room for every thought and action. For example, what looks better?
1. She became embarrassed.
2. She felt her face flush a brilliant red. Sheepishly, her eyes trailed away as she uncomfortably scratched the dry skin on the back of her hand.
(Make sure you don’t get repetitive on certain details, though. Make it interesting but don’t bore the reader.)
Third, add on some quirks. They can be minor things, like looking away uncomfortably when someone stares at them or getting jumpy whenever someone call their name. Quirks are just the behavioral expression of their personality but make them seem a lot more realistic. They might seem minor, but again, this is the details part of what we were talking about.
A Character with a Twist!
My character still feels kinda bland, like they’re kind of predictable.
Characters need some kind of twist. Otherwise, they become Mary Sues that everyone hates because the whole universe adores them and they are the sheer symbol of unattainable perfection. Twists are what keeps readers on the edge what we’re talking about the plot and make characters intriguing when we’re talking about characterization. A villain filled with haunting guilt and self-disgust is more compelling than a villain who’s just a jerk. Characters who suffer and face pain and challenges and have character flaws are also more relatable than those who get everything they want in life. Which one of Shakespeare’s works have you heard about more, Romeo and Juliet or The Twelfth Night?
For that reason, your characters also need flaws. In Shakespeare’s case, they became fatal flaws that led to the characters’ downfall and deaths. Characters need issues; no one’s perfect.
A list to help you out: www.darkworldrpg.com/lore/flaws.php
Pick something that seems natural to your character and make sure the flaw is well integrated into your story.
These are essential because not only do they reveal a character’s past but it also helps bring the reader up-to-date on what happened in the character’s life before the story even started. Just a little warning, try not to go overboard with this or your character will be seen as too “tragic” and you’ll just be overdramatic. Sure, their parents died. Then their best friend commits suicide. Then their whole school is attacked. But really, draw the line somewhere. I’m sorry if that’s ever happened to you but too many bad events in their life just seems really… boring and unlikely. Try to throw in some realism in there. You can’t just give someone the darkest past ever and expect them to be sane. Unless, of course, you’re writing for a crazed person. Then by all means, go for it! Now then, here’s a list of questions to help you develop some awesome backstories. Good luck!
Emotions-Reality vs Fiction
To add on to what Lumi said, you have to make the story realistic to a certain degree or it’ll look really fake or the audience cannot connect to the story on an emotional level. When your character faces a challenging situation, you also have to make sure you flesh out how they react on an emotion level too.
SHOW THE CHARACTER’S INNER THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS
That’s the best way to create a character, through indirect characterization, rather than saying “XXX felt angry”. Also pace yourself with their emotional development and keep it realistic and close to their personality.’
Judging Books by Their Cover
What people wear and look like give off a certain impression. Even if you try not to, you might still make assumptions or judgement about people based on first impressions and appearances. The same thing works with characters. Descriptions of character’s appearances can either show:
1. Their personality in how they dress
Example: dark and solitary person wears dark colors, rebel-like characters dress with dyed hair and punk fashion, nice and timid kids might wear modest and light-colored clothing
2. Clothes can also become symbolic using traditional color imagery. You can also subvert this color imagery for irony
Ex: Pure character wears white and light-colored clothes
Example of subversion for irony: Evil character wears white clothes
3. You can also replicate how other characters perceive them. For example, you can describe your character in an unflattering way or like a perfect god/dess like how the other characters perceive them. Characters like these have some kind of hidden side that the public doesn’t get to see that you can reveal later.
Checklist. Please refer to this as you create your character. Remember, you will not need to know all of these. This is just meant to be a reference to help you build up fully-fleshed characters. Answer as many as you would like to.
This might be kinda specific but for anyone who writes fantasy this list could be helpful: 40.media.tumblr.com/f6073f63986e2b3ae9fc1f2c64d5e1fb/tumblr_mxcutbDStU1t2b100o1_r3_1280.jpg
This helps to improve vocabulary: pbs.twimg.com/media/Bw-Wf63CAAAi5aE.jpg
This is about writing body language to say what characters are saying without dialogue: 41.media.tumblr.com/cc1f2859d0e4fccdcd2608fdc7882aa5/tumblr_n3jn7jCSma1rnvzfwo1_r1_540.png
A character checklist to write a good novel: https://40.media.tumblr.com/7e0af2b888a3ccbbf31c9b8d0e43f244/tumblr_nudwai30Ey1smr64jo1_540.jpg
For people who get confused between the tenses of lay and lie because let’s face it, who doesn’t?40.media.tumblr.com/b4e518b719ff979a9e6e17f3b6029b84/tumblr_mrcq7sKTPE1rnvzfwo1_1280.jpg
George Orwell’s rules for writing: kimhooperbynight.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/george-orwell.jpg
list of “touch” words: 40.media.tumblr.com/f6e3d587a02a32ef2b85d345afd15ce7/tumblr_nh8dfd8OOj1sg5bnlo1_1280.jpg
Alternatives for over-used words: pbs.twimg.com/media/B8fJJw1IYAAvo5J.jpg:large41.media.tumblr.com/eb58bbead57df8e432c74f5f605823b9/tumblr_ncvy0iycJd1rhavdko2_250.png41.media.tumblr.com/d70025f998400b987e3578617410800c/tumblr_ncvy0iycJd1rhavdko3_250.png
Writing advice when referring to two characters who share the same pronoun in a sentence: english.stackexchange.com/questions/17326/advice-for-using-multiple-same-gender-personal-pronouns-in-the-same-sentence
Get to know your characters. If you don’t know them well enough, writing in their POV will be extremely difficult. Try to give them some hobbies, as well, because not everyone just studies or works. That’s not how life is.
Here’s a list of hobbies to help you get started. I hope that helps you build wonderful characters. ^^
Gotham Character Questionnaire
You might start with questions that address the basics about a character:
What is your characters name? Does the character have a nickname?
What is your characters hair color? Eye color?
What kind of distinguishing facial features does your character have?
Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did he get them?
Who are your characters’ friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does he wish he were closest to?
Where was your character born? Where has she lived since then? Where does she call home?
Where does your character go when he’s angry?
What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?
Does she have a secret?
What makes your character laugh out loud?
When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?
Then dig deeper by asking more unconventional questions:
What is in your characters refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?
Look at your characters feet. Describe what you see there. Does he wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is he in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is he wearing a pair of blue and gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?
When your character thinks of her childhood kitchen, what smell does she associate with it? Sauerkraut? Oatmeal cookies? Paint? Why is that smell so resonant for her?
Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?
It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If he’s eating breakfast, what exactly does he eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sunbathe, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?
What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?
Marcel Proust Character Questionnaire
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your current state of mind?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most treasured possession?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What is your favorite journey?
What is your most marked characteristic?
When and where were you the happiest?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is your greatest regret?
Which talent would you most like to have?
Where would you like to live?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Whose are your heroes in real life?
Which living person do you most admire?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasions do you lie?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What are your favorite names?
How would you like to die?
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
What is your motto?
Here are some sites to help you hook readers from the start.