Character creation is one of the biggest challenges facing fiction writers.
Well, let me rephrase that. Character creation is one of the biggest challenges facing most fiction writers!
The fiction writers who don’t have to care so much about writing characters are those who are writing plot-driven novels. As I explain in the section on plot the characterization doesn’t matter nearly as much in such stories.
Having said that: no agent or publisher ever turned down a novel because the character creation was too believable, too rounded, too well-written, and too compelling and interesting.
The solely-plot-driven novels get published in spite of the bad characterization, not because of it. They get published because the plot is so good it can carry the lack of characterization.
However, you’ll appeal to a much wider range of readers if you have a fully-rounded story – with a compelling plot and compelling characters.
The pages on plot aim to help you with the former; this section is about assisting you with the latter.
How To Create Characters
So, how do you write memorable characters? What is the secret to character creation? There are a few techniques which assist you in writing great characters.
The first thing is to make sure you are creating believable characters. If you create fiction characters who aren’t believable – if they’re like cardboard cut-outs, or caricatures, then they won’t engage your reader at all.
Also, readers get to know the character as they do anybody else – a bit at a time as the character is revealed to them. Above all, don’t info-dump.
How well should you as the writer know the character before you begin your story?
Opinion is divided on that. Some writers prefer to know everything about the character before they start; others like the character to surprise them and to reveal him/herself to the author as the story progresses.
As in so much to do with fiction writing – the right answer is – as long as it works for you as the writer, and and it works for the story (hence the reader), it doesn’t matter which you do.
Experiment with both options until you find the one which suits you.
Having said that, no matter which of these two possibilities suits you better, you’ll still find relevant information on the other pages in this section on Character Creation.
You’ll portray a lot about the character from the way she speaks, how she looks/walks/dresses etc, and even the physical location in which she finds herself.
Another good trick in character creation is to learn to write character sketches. These will give you practice and experience in how to create characters.
You can use the List of Character Traits as a sort of pick-n-mix of the attributes your character might have.
And then, I suggest you fill in the Character Personality Chart to find out interesting and relevant information about your characters.
It’s important also to consider the character arc – how the character grows and develops through the course of the story.
You also need to realise how character and plot fit together – they are inextricably intertwined, and it’s important to realise that.
An advanced characterization technique is to use both direct and indirect characterization. This will help you create well-rounded and believable characters.
Don’t forget your character’s back story, either, as it’s essential to know that, or at least as much as is relevant to the story.