Creating characters – Part 4

by juliusmsanz

I remember I read a post some time ago that talked about characters and one ridiculous thing made me laugh.

Let’s talk about that.

How does skin feel? It can feel soft for instance. Do you really need to write in your notes about that? Obviously not. If we go that route then we can talk about how the hair feels to the touch, how the lips are dry, and go on and on and on. If you are writing a character you don’t need to do this sort of thing. You can write about it, sure, but if those are the main concerns then I’d be worried.

Characters are important because of conflict, not hair, not skin, not lips. Those notes aren’t even fit for erotica.

So how do you take notes? I’ll save the most for a future post and say this: characters are important because they interact in your story. In my previous post I wrote about feelings and action vs reaction, and this is the way to go. So tell me this: how does your character react to anger? What does he/she do when angry? Note that these are two different questions. In the first question the character may be dealing with an angry person or mob, in the second question it’s all about the character’s anger, and in fact he can respond in two different ways. He can appease when dealing with the anger of others and he can bottle his own emotions and deal with them internally. These are just an example, there are hundreds if not thousands of possibilities. Ask the same questions to the character but with different emotions, like fear or sadness, and you can find yourself having a complex individual. You just have to look at the people around you to see that nobody deals with things the same way, that’s part of what makes us unique. Your character must also be unique.

Now compare that to writing about the oily hair of the main character.

See my point?

Another thing to take into consideration is if your character is an introvert or an extrovert. And how much of each he is. Say you’re writing about an introvert, can you say he’s the life of the party? No. But you can still say that he’s good with small groups and he’s a funny individual. At first I did this mistake, when I thought of an introvert I thought about a shut-in or something along those lines, but I think even shut-ins aren’t isolated. Shy people aren’t always shy in every single situation they are facing. This sort of thing can make you flesh out your character even more and really bring something special into the story.

The same thing goes if your character is often rude or polite. Nobody is rude all the time, and nobody is polite all the time. What affects the rudeness? Was it something that happened to the character a short moment ago? A while ago? Some sort of traumatic experience? How exactly is the character being rude? Is it obvious? Everything that you write about your character needs to be properly explained. Why does the character believe in God? Is he/she even a religious person?

And let me just say one thing, because I’m making this sound very important, you don’t have to write all of this in your story in one go. You can give little hints here and there. I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes people forget and just cramp everything together. What matters most is that you know all these things and have a sense of direction as you are writing your story. You just check your notes here and there and write these things as you go along.

Emotional depth is very important no matter what you write and I’ll try to tell you more in the following posts.

See you tomorrow for Part 5!

Have a nice day!