Let's Talk About: Characterizing Your Characters
I'm not a very faithful blogger, am I? But I hope when I do get time to blog you find the content worthwhile.
Today I'd like to give you a quick tip on characterization. I know-I know, everybody and his dog talks about characterization, but I'm hoping you find a gem in here somewhere.
Don't worry; I'm not going to suggest you spend hours interviewing your characters so you can "get to know them". I value my time—as I’m sure you do too—and can't stand anything that waste it. This is why I've never been able to bring myself to interview my characters. By the time I've filled out one of those arduous character profiles, I've lost the will to write!
The way I see it, if I have a scene where I need to know my character’s favourite ice cream, or most embarrassing experience, she or he will tell me when I need the info. I'm happy to write on a need-to-know basis. As far as I'm concerned, any information I have on my character that isn't necessary for the reader to know can only mean I've got lots of padding available should I get lazy and decide to bore my reader with nonsense.
But I hasten to add: this is my opinion!
I take my hat off to anyone who enjoys interviewing their characters and filling out 100 Qs questionnaires before putting finger to keyboard. If this is your way and you're happy with it...(I tip my hat).
However, if you are a busy author and recognize the need for effective writing tools, stick with me, I'll tell you how I characterize my characters.
Have you ever written a scene and your CPs point out that your POV character is behaving out of character? The reason is most likely you didn't take the time to give your character traits. Yes, character traits are an amazing way to ensure your character always stays in character.
Character traits are characteristics, which makes your character special. Things like habits, likes and dislikes, values, manners, personality, behaviour. For example a hero who is: daring, unpredictable, creative and a terrible timekeeper. Or a heroine who is responsible, work-orientated, guarded and generous.
I believe you only need a few things in your character profile to bring your character to life:
Ø Give your main characters three or four basic character traits. Having one subtext trait as well would add another dimension to your character.
Ø Ensure your character has a GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict).
Ø Make your character interesting by giving them a paradox to their personality. (ie the supermodel who is a gourmet cook. The tough footballer who has a marine biology degree). Paradoxes create fascinating characters that will continually surprise your readers. Give your characters a paradox if you want your characters to be unique and memorable.
Ø Does your character have a secret he or she is hiding? Secrets can add depth to your story as well as your character and provide opportunities for subtext, suspense, and surprise.
Ø Give your character a flaw—nobody is perfect! Flaws make characters more human.
Ø Is there something special about your character? This is the one thing that completely separates your character from every other character—even those with similar personalities.
Keep your characters in character by making sure you have them act and react in relation to their traits.
That's my handy tip for today.
Join me again soon when I'll be talking about subtext and subtext traits.
Character Profile Recap:
-Three or four traits
-What makes your character special
If this helped you, or you would like to share your own method for characterizing your characters, please leave a comment.
Thanks so much for stopping by.