What comes first in your creative process? The characters or the plot? This is somewhat like asking the age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Whether or not you can answer either question, your characters are important. Most of all, whether they’re hateful villains or the ultimate hero, they need to be believable. Here are some tips for creating characters your readers will never forget and want more of!
Remind readers what characters look like occasionally through action, such as “he raked his hand through his dark hair” or “her green eyes burned with passion.”
If your novel becomes a series, not all readers will start with book one. Describe your characters again and recap the plot. Loyal readers will appreciate the refresher.
Keep dialog realistic. Remember to use contractions or it could sound stilted. Saying it aloud helps. If one or more characters have an accent, be sure to reflect that as well, even if your spell-checker gags a bit.
Add color to your characters by giving them a regional accent. Capture it in writing by deliberately misspelling their dialog to reflect how it sounds phonetically.
Consider point of view carefully. If you really want the reader to relate to your protagonist, the story should be told through his or her eyes, even if you’re using third person narrative.
Having your protagonist assess himself in the mirror is one of the most unoriginal ways to describe his or her appearance. Be more creative. Note how other authors do it and when you encounter a great description, study and emulate it.
Using astrology for character development is helpful and fun. If you’re not familiar with the characteristics of the various zodiac signs, a book like “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology” can help. Get your copy here.
“Cardboard characters” are those that have no personality. Make sure yours have likes, dislikes, and opinions so they act like real people. Keep a list of each character’s physical and personality traits on file if they’re not vivid enough in your mind without it. Readers notice if your hero’s eyes are blue on one page and green on another.
If your book is loaded with characters, do your readers a favor by providing a dramatis personae, i.e. a list of who and what they are in the beginning of the story; a cast of characters, if you will. Not all readers have a steel-trap memory that can keep track of too many people.
Remember your main character needs to have a fatal flaw. It doesn’t have to be evil, it could be something like being too honest or outspoken.
When you have a huge cast of characters, remind readers who the minor ones are from time to time so they can keep them straight. Placing them in a scene that fits their role sometimes will suffice. Having a dramatis personnae is also highly recommended.
Start your story with the main character so your reader immediately knows who the story is about. Only exception is prologues.
Write what you know, whether it relates to your hero’s job or where he lives. If you don’t, then learn via research. Accuracy is essential if you want to maintain credibility as a writer.
Not every character who strolls on scene in your story deserves a name, only those who contribute to the plot in some way. These include incidental characters such as waiters, people in the elevator, some coworkers, etc. Describing their appearance for the sake imagery, however, is advised.
Avoid giving characters similar names, such as those starting with the same letter or sound, or names that rhyme. Using unique or unusual names makes them easier to keep track of and more memorable as well.
If your story becomes a series, remind your readers the fundamentals, such as what the characters look like and any important backstory information. This benefits not only those who read the earlier books but helps those who start with a later episode.
Giving characters a distinguishing feature or mannerism increases imagery and provides a handy mechanism to remind readers what they look like. This can be their hair color or style; distinguishing physical feature such as eyes or nose; habits, like smoking; or even gestures.