Tips for defining your characters is something I wish I would have had when I first started writing. Defining your characters is one of the most important ways for you to keep a reader engaged in the story and remember it long after they’re finished. You want your characters to stand out on their own, and leave a mark in the mind of the reader. Here are a few things you can do to avoid boring your readers with 2D characters that all sound alike.
Tips for Defining Your Characters
- Outline your character’s personality. Yes, outline. If you are not the type to base a character off a real-life person you know, then outlining a personality could do it for you. Joshua Robertson gives his good guys five positive traits and two negative traits before writing them. His bad guys are given five negative traits and two positive traits. This alone creates a believable character you can work with since there is really no black and white in personalities. Even the worst of villains should have some kind of positive trait. Otherwise, the villain’s actions can be too easy to predict.
- Use actual photos or art to help you keep your character’s physical appearance in mind. Pinterest is a great place to find such images. When you have a visual of a character, it makes it much easier to write that character in more detail that will stand out to your readers. Make a folder–or a Pinterest board–of character portraits. BUT, remember that you cannot use someone else’s art to make money. You can’t take an artist’s work and put it on your book cover without a license/permission from the artist! If you would like to see an example of a character Pinterest board, click here!
- Give your character a quirk–something only they do and repeatedly do throughout the story. Example: A girl who chews on her hair when she’s nervous, or a man who rubs his jaw when he thinks. This makes the character more human and relatable to the reader.
One of the most frustrating things is when you’re starting a new book and as you get further and further into it, you realize you’re not sure which character is who. There is no clear difference in the way they speak, behave, or react to problems. Every man is a stoic nobleman or hardened soldier. Every older woman is quiet and gentle in her response or a complete lunatic. Is it so much to ask for an old woman to throw beans and a curse word at every person who mentions a fairy? Or a seven foot, loud, overbearing man with a lisp and tendency to walk on his tiptoes? Consider these tips for defining your characters and add something to your characters that will stand out. Then you–the writer–will stand out amongst others on the bookshelves.
Check out this blog post on the best music for writing fantasy!