This week: Are Your Characters Dead or Alive? Edited by: I like big books #2233315
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Protagonist: the main or central character or hero
Antagonist: opponent or enemy of the protagonist
Foil Character: a character(s) who helps readers better understand another character, usually the protagonist. Also known in some literature as "the sidekick".
Characters are the lifeblood of your story. It's critical that you understand your characters and what makes them tick so you can convey that to your readers. It's your job as the writer to let the reader learn about your character indirectly through dialogue and action. All characters are in a sense, types. However, that doesn't mean they have to be stereotypes. We've all read stories about the elderly woman with all the cats so why not be more creative? Think of some of your favorite television shows. More than likely the shows have creative, quirky, well-cast characters. The characters are memorable; they live and breathe in your mind long after you turn off the television. That's what you want the characters in your writing to be. You want your reader to be so attached and intrigued by these amazing people/creatures/beings that they simply can't stop reading.
Bringing your characters to life and your readers will be curious enough to keep reading so they know the outcome of their lives. Most popular stories thrive on conflict between characters. However, they can experience conflict with external forces such as bad weather or an accident also. The conflict must still be there but sometimes it's fun to explore conflict with another character or even an internal conflict within the character himself. Perhaps your character has to solve an internal conflict before he can move on to the conflict with your other characters. There are many ways to achieve this as you can see. After the conflict is resolved, your readers need to know how the conflict has changed or grown as a result. Remember, those changes need not always be for the good. Your character could be permanently damaged by the conflict or even remained the same. Just make sure you show your audience the effect during the conclusion of the story.
Stereotypical characters can be predictable and boring. Readers connect easier with realistic characters and that means flaws and real-life habits. Perhaps your character has a fear of planes, a fear of heights or even cats. Think of all the possibilities something as simple as a fear could have in your storyline. Need inspiration? Go out to a mall or public place and watch people. Imagine what their lives are like, what problems they have and what makes them tick. Your goal is be original.
Your characters can have a hundred different qualities but if your reader doesn't understand their actions, they'll stop reading. I'm not saying everything your character does has to make perfect sense. I am saying if your character does something that seems nonsensical, then it needs to be established why they're acting that way so your audience doesn't feel lost. Your character's actions and motivations have to add up or they won't be believable. Your readers cannot connect or become attached to a character they have no empathy for. If they can understand your characters behaviors or reasoning then they will identify with them and want to see the story through to the end. This is the same emotion that takes over when you're watching a scary movie that makes you yell at the screen, "No, don't look in that closet!". You're empathizing with the character and you don't want to see them hurt. You can achieve the same feeling in a writing if you create realistic characters.
Character building questions:
Think about their closet. What items are in there? What is thrown on the closet floor? How about their drawers - are things neatly folded or jammed in any which way?
What is your character’s deepest secret? Would he/she ever consider telling anyone?
Who the character is will determine what he/she wants and what they're made of. Will he/she steal $50 if he finds it lying around?
What catalogs arrive in their daily mail and which are the ones that they choose to keep? Where do they read them and what do they dream of buying? What have they bought in the past that brings these to them?
Your main character has invited you to lunch. Where does he/she meet you? What is ordered? What do you talk about?
Follow them around the grocery store in your mind for a while. What items go into their cart and what do they look at but not buy? What aisles do they linger in? What's their favorite comfort food?
Your main character invites you to his/her place for dinner. What sort of home does he/she have? How is it furnished? Any family, roommates, pets? What is served?
What was their favorite class in school and why? Did they have a favorite teacher or mentor? What's their learning style like, slow and steady or quick leaps of intuition?
Ask yourself, what is the worse thing that can happen to my character? Then ask how can it get even worse?
To make your characters living breathing individuals, they should have the following:
a unique way of behaving
a unique way of speaking
a unique appearance
a unique way of thinking
Think of a person you know or even one you see on television that has a distinct way of behaving. Write about them in a character scene. Make them walk in a room and describe how they act, what makes them stand out.
Write and Review on! ~ Brooke
"This compilation of character quirks from Paula Wynne will be a great addition to any fiction writer's library." - Amazon Reviewer
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