- Make sure your characters are well-rounded.
By “well-rounded,” I mean they have bad traits as well as good traits, strengths and weaknesses, etc. It can be tempting to give them a perfect personality full of traits we ourselves would like, but you have to remember that that simply isn’t realistic. The imperfections of a character are what make them interesting and, most importantly, relatable.
Here’s an example of a kind of flat, 2-D character:
Joe was the most popular guy in school. Everyone got along with him. He was friendly, well-spoken, and a great student.
To improve the above, we could add some imperfections to make him seem more realistic and down to earth.
Joe worked hard to achieve these things. However, academics didn’t come easily for him, and he had to spend many hours on his homework to keep up his grades. The pressure of maintaining his reputation could wear down on him at times, and sometimes he wished he could just be an average student.
- Past experiences are vital.
Past experiences (memories) are so important in a character. Think about it–how did you become the person you are today? Your parents raising you, hanging out with your friends, learning from mistakes–the list goes on. Our experiences really determine who we are. They are a very important part of our lives, so it’s just as important to give your character these past experiences in order to give them life.
- Think of your characters as real people.
The best way to do this is to answer a questionnaire that asks dozens of questions about your character, from their appearance to their favorite food. Think of it like a conversation you’re having with a new acquaintance. Of course it’s slightly different since you are answering for the other person, but try to get in their head and really think about the answers (You can find many free character questionnaires online). Once you’ve gotten to know your character, think of them as a close friend. When an event happens in your book, how would that “friend” react to it? What would they think? What would they say? This also ties in with my last piece of advice:
- Let your characters speak to you.
No, I don’t mean literally talking to you in your head–although imagining yourself having a conversation with your character is a good exercise. No, what I mean is that if your gut is telling you that your character Bob wants to go get a hamburger for some reason, let him do it and see where it leads! It could lead to a new character or an exciting scene. Or, the event could turn out to be totally pointless–something at you end out editing out later. Either way, you’ve got nothing to lose. The famous author, L. Frank Baum, suffered from severe writer’s block while writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He couldn’t write for days, unable to figure out a plot problem. Finally, he started up again. His wife noticed this and said, “I see you are writing again, did you find a way to solve your problem?” “No,” he answered. “I just let the characters do what they wanted.”
I hope this writing advice helps you. Happy writing!
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Michigan: For Your Knowledge, 2003. Print. The quotes are taken from the introduction of this edition written by L. Frank Baum’s grandson, Robert A. Baum.
About the Author:
Name: Grace Silzel
How long have you been a part of TPS?: About 4 years.
What classes are you taking with TPS this year?: I’m taking German 3 and
German Conversations 3.
What are a few of your hobbies?: I love to swim, horseback ride, bake,
draw, and (of course) write!
How did you hear about Clay Magazine?: I heard about it from my older
siblings who took TPS classes before me and from the TPS website. I’ve
been reading it consistently this past semester and it’s become something
I look forward to each week!