Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to Create Memorable Characters

Think about it. What glues and holds you to a novel? Yes, a great story is important, but isn't it really great characters that make it memorable? My book California Girl Chronicles has a very basic story: young screenwriter goes to Hollywood to make it only to be distracted by hot men. It's not a terribly complex story by any means. It's definitely frothy, good fun, but what do people talk about the most in all of the reviews -- my flawed, beautiful character, Brea. You can have a "thin" story, but if the characters are really interesting, great and fun to follow, it won't matter. People will be hooked to the character's adventures or in Brea's case, her misadventures, which makes it critical that writers understand that their characters must be fully developed, interesting, compelling and made to do provocative things that hold the reader's interest. So how do you create a memorable character?

Distinct Voice -- make sure you start with the very basic voice of the character. Make sure it's not vanilla. Your character's voice should be distinct and easily identifiable from the other characters. Sit down and create a background and history for your character. This background should include dialect, socio economic influences, family influences, and demographic information such as education or lack thereof. If you know this about your character you can identify how he or she should behave and talk based on these things.

Behavior -- give your character a moral code. What are his/her religious beliefs or lack thereof. What is his/her belief system that impacts their standards and behavior. Are they conservative, liberal, non-political or just indifferent. Are they just one big contradiction (which is always interesting). Use these basic beliefs and behavior to imbue your character with the right behavior.

Overall Character Development -- don't gloss over your character. Spend time to slowly develop an interesting character by developing the character within the story. Make sure you show your character doing things not saying it. Wrap the character around the story. And let me repeat, "show" don't tell. If you spend time showing the character's behavior, you will be able to fully develop this person on the page.

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