Writing Tips

Do You Know Your Characters?

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Often times people will write their story and not fully know their characters. Those people that they create, as odd and strange as it sounds, will be a complete and utter stranger to them. You might be asking, “How is that possible, aren’t I the one who created them? Shouldn’t I know them better than anyone?” and the answer is yes, you did create them and yes you should know them better than anyone else. The fact of the matter is, though, that until you really sit down and craft your character and have them go through all the trial and errors that you set out within the novel, they’re just an idea. They’re a stranger. So, the real question is this:

How do you get to know your characters?

First and foremost, before you do anything else you need to distinguish the absolute basic part of your character. Are they round or are they flat? Now, this is just a nifty way of saying whether or not your character has depth or if they’re just filler and there. A character with depth could range from your main character to your main character’s sibling or best friend while a filler character is that waitress or neighbor you have your main character speak to maybe once or twice throughout the entirety of the book. They’re someone your reader will forget about within a matter of sentences. Once you distinguish this basic part, that’s where things get fun and interesting because now you take control and mold your character(s) into who they are, who they’re becoming, and who they will ultimately be by the end of the novel or series and this can be done through the course of a single book or that of a series. All of those sadistic and heart-wrenching challenges you’ve thought up? Those are the things that will make your round character grow. They’re what will make your character have depth to them.

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Your round characters are the driving force within your novel. They’re who your readers will relate to and identify with the most and it doesn’t necessarily have to be your main character. Your main character might not even be the person who has the overall most growth within your text and that’s okay because all you’re trying to do right now, is how to get them there. You want your readers to fall in love with your characters or loathe your characters. You want them to feel something for them because that’s how you’ll hook them and keep them along for the ride. They’ll want to know if their favorite character gets the guy/girl or if the character they hate the most becomes loses/wins.

A really good example of a round character and the growth they experience throughout would be Harry in the Harry Potter series. He starts as a naive child who knows nothing about magic or wizards to the final book where he ultimately defeats his number one enemy and has a large understanding of the wizarding world in general. Harry develops a large growth over the entire course of those novels from learning and growing his relationships to his own overall strength and ability to overcome challenges.

Your flat characters are the ones who will be the easiest to craft. They’re the characters one doesn’t put an overall amount of thought into as they don’t experience a large amount of growth. They’re static and simple. That waitress who takes your main characters order? She’s flat. The next door neighbor your detective interviews who have no connection to the main storyline at all outside of giving useless information? They’re flat, they probably won’t ever appear again unless you create them to have useful information in which case, they’ll probably end up turning into another round character.

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In general, when crafting your story, knowing your characters are a huge part in being able to really capture your readers’ attention. After all, these are the people they’ll meet and experience the challenges and journey through. Your reader, in other words, lives vicariously through your characters so creating them is just as important, if not more so, than the overall plot line because this is who they meet first. This is who tells them the events of the story and leads them along. Without your characters, your story would never progress so, let me ask you,

Do you know your characters?

Article by Shania N. Soler

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