5 Essentials For Genuine Characters

June 29, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , )


I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

Keeping it simple today. This is quick checklist for creating genuine characters:

  • Don’t shun stereotypes – While the overuse of stereotypes is definitely a no-no, but to utterly ignore every existing paradigm for character creation isn’t such a great idea either. Despite what people say, they actually do like the familiar and dragging them by the hair into totally new territory probably isn’t the best way to connect to your readers.
  • Appearance matters – You have to give your reader some idea of what your character looks like. This doesn’t mean giving the reader an info dump two pages long that ends up describing every single mole. Give them enough to form an image and then move on (and if you revisit physical appearance again be sure you are consistent).
  • Dialogue rocks – Dialogue is where the reader has the chance to hear the character speak in the words that they have chosen. Unless the book is narrated by the character the reader does not get the chance any other way. That means the dialogue should be authentic to the character and it has to be distinguished from other characters.
  • Everybody has a past – unless you sprung from the ground about a sentence before the beginning of the plot. How much of the character’s past you choose to explain or explicitly detail is up to the individual writer and plot but every character has a past, has opinions and viewpoints and ways of doing things. Characters that seem to exist only for the sake of the current plot never really feel genuine.
  • Relationships are necessary – You character is going to be interacting with others and it is important that you understand the relationship that they have with each of the other players. Is there a history? Is it a newly established connection? Are there other connections between the characters? If the relationships don’t work then the characters won’t feel right.

Did I forget any? Probably. Let me know what you think.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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6 Comments

  1. Smander said,

    Some great tips and posted just in time. I am doing a little character profiling since discovering my protagonist is a little one-dimensional. So cheers!

  2. AlexJ said,

    Great points. My characters’ pasts play a key role in my book.

  3. Agatha82 said,

    I always have to create a type of biography for some of my characters, just so I know where they’ve come from and how they got to be as they are now. I think that kind of thing is very important in order to have realistic people in your stories.

  4. Alex Willging said,

    I heartily agree with every point. I’m coming to appreciate how important a past is for characters, especially if the story is “in media res.” And I can’t tell you how many online stories I’ve read where the author just dumps all the information he or she has on a character’s appearance, right down to their height and weight.

  5. RaShelle said,

    Good info. Thanks. I like the part about being consistent with a character’s looks. I do a character chart beforehand. That way, if for some reason I can’t remember what color a character’s eyes are. I have the chart to look at.

  6. Southpaw said,

    This post is good timing for me as I begin my rewrite. I’ve been looking at my character to make sure I’ve developed them.

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