Creating Characters You and Your Readers Will Love
This post is later than I had anticipated because I was buried deep in revisions on my latest book. Actually, I was buried deep in rewrites because my characters didn’t leap off the page. The didn’t bring their story to life. The reason why. I couldn’t envisage them as real people. They weren’t alive in my mind, so how were they going to be anything other than cardboard cut-outs or just silhouettes in your story?
This post is all about creating your characters. Characters you love. So that your readers can love them too, go on a journey with them and more importantly, believe in them, empathise with them.
How to get to know your characters
The best way I’ve found to do this, is to ask them questions by completing an interview. You could even design your own character sheets with all the questions you think you will need to ask and all those you’d love to know the answer to. It’s a method I returned to during the rewrite and I discovered some astonishing things about my characters. These are the sorts of questions you should be answering. Here's a photo of the many sheets I used for the rewrite.
Know the basics
Find an image of your character, something you can focus on as you write. Then fill in the basics of what your character looks like. I find Pinterest really useful for this, as well as good fun! This is from my board - complete with its working title - for the book I've just sent into my editor.
You also need other information, like birthday and star sign. Find out what their hobbies are what music they love to listen to, what type of food they absolutely love or hate. Do they have a pet? What is the most precious thing they own and why? Some very leading questions there. A fabulous book from which to learn more about creating a character questionnaire, among other things, is Kate Walker’s 12Point Guide to Writing Romance. A constant on my desk!
Know your characters’ likes and dislikes
Once you’ve got the basics filled in, it’s time to delve deeper into your new character and find out what makes them tick. You may not need to put in the story the fact that that your heroine is a country girl at heart, but you will certainly know how she will react when faced with the buzz of a big city and confident alpha male who is so unlike any man in her hometown. Ask as many questions as you can, even if they seem incidental at the time. Treat your characters as a new friend you want to find out more about.
It’s also important to know how your character reacts to situations. What do they do if they are stressed? What makes them laugh? How they deal with bad news? What makes them angry and how they handle that? The list is endless!
Know their back story
This is what will give your story emotional depth and is a must. Knowing their back story in detail will create characters that are true to themselves. Every character will come to the blank page of a new book with a past that has unresolved issues and personal conflicts to overcome. You as the writer need to know these from the beginning, even if the reader doesn’t discover this until much later in the story.
Finally the most important question you can ask your characters as they tell you what has happened to them prior to your story starting is ‘why?’ For instance if your hero lets you know he will never be able to go to a certain part of the city, you want to know why not. What happened to him? When? How does it affect him now? What would he do if a situation forced him to do just that?
Know what they want in the story and why
Your characters must have inner conflicts to resolve and problems to deal with as they progress through your story. At the start of the story you need to know what your characters want and where they want or need to be both physically and emotionally as the story ends. It may be that the hero wants one thing, when really, deep down he wants something completely different and through the course of the story and interaction with the heroine, he will discover what it is he really wants – and needs.
It is vital to get to know your characters even before you start writing chapter one, as you will then have characters that are alive and living in your story from the very first paragraph. This is the type of character you, the writer, can connect with as well as the reader who will be transported into the world of your story. It’s also great fun meeting new characters and part of the writing process I’m definitely making sure I do this as I begin my new book!
Images from Pixabay