Monday, 8 January 2018

Writing Tips - Characters

Writing is one of the most subjective art forms there is. For every individual that loves your story, two might hate it or at least dislike it intensely. That's not as bad as it sounds; you can expect diversity of opinion when your book leaves your hands for a publisher. 

Once out in the big, wide world your characters no longer remain your property. You have birthed them, raised them and learned their every characteristic and facial tick. Yet eventually, you know you have to let them go. 

For this first blog on writing hints and tips, we'll have a brief look at characters. For any of you who may find themselves a little stuck, these might just be the chock to help you drive out of the mud.

We’ve all been there – fallen a little bit in love with a character in a novel and been sorry to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. 
Chances are these characters embody some or many of these classic character archetypes; 

Writing characters is difficult. Do you make them realistic, larger than life, fantastical or simply a plot device? As with the above, chances are you have also followed this process when creating your characters and their arc - 

But how are engaging characters born? Chances are their creators knew them inside out before committing them to paper. Click here for a great exercise in getting to know your character. Try it out and watch your characters come to life over a matter of days!

But what makes a character likeable? It’s certainly not about being too good to be true. Readers want someone they can relate to. There’s got to be room for growth and flexibility. Alice Bradbury takes a look at creating sympathy without saintliness here;

You can also have a character who is the antagonist, yet someone 
that you can relate to or even sympathise with. Maybe you even end up cheering them on. Think Riddick in Pitch Black or Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs. Unpleasant individuals, certainly. But likeable? Definitely. We love to hate to love them. A character such as those and many others can turn a mediocre storyline into a gripping page-turner.

Yet when you know your character, you have to make them come alive. Body language is a great way to show not tell when it comes to a character’s emotions. Take a look at Joanna Waugh’s body language cues for some good ideas -

K.M. Weiland talks about a simple way to make your characters ‘pop’ in her great video tutorial here. 

Physical descriptions can be useful but for novelist Sarah Painter, it’s not just about how the reader sees the characters, but also the characters see each other. What characters notice about other people shows a lot about their own personality -

Sometimes it’s all in the details – something as simple as coming up with an age-appropriate name for your character can bring them to life. Click here for a great tool for matching your character’s name and age.

The most important thing, however, is to enjoy them as you write and bring them to life. You never know, you may be coming across them in a later story (hopefully yours; if it's someone else's that's plagiarism and is a bit pants really).

The above article was written by Murielle Maupoint and expanded upon by David McCaffrey

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