Creation of believable and multidimensional characters is like steeplechase. Like in athletics there are rules and tricks to make jumping over barriers easier.
“Gender is the social construct”. FALSE.
Difference between male and female is obvious. How to show it in a book? The book exists as a material object you can use it as decoration or even to level your wardrobe or table, but her real value is spiritual. The book fulfills its purpose in minds of writers and readers. There in the mind lies difference between genders we as writers can use. Female and male brains work differently and we think in different ways. Female writers need to write male characters and vice versa – this is our first obstacle. Best way to show gender difference is in the dialog, actions and inner thoughts of our characters (Show, don’t tell). How to achieve this? We will ask our characters psychological questions.
How concrete is your character? Men will make concrete statements, while women use metaphors.
How do your characters share their emotions? Men will speak about their emotions only when under stress or when forced. They like to brag while women will talk about their accomplishments in modest fashion. Men get angry and aggressive while women are indirect and manipulative. She will consider effects of her statements and actions.
Do your characters explain themselves? Men will avoid justification of their actions. If they explain themselves you need to give them a good reason to do so. Man will give advice when asked about something, tell what should be done. Woman will show empathy and tell about similar thing which happened to her – share experience.
How much details do your characters notice? Men stick to general picture, women will notice specific details like emotions, body posture, colors, styles etc. If your female character doesn’t notice the way others act you should give her good reason to be detached.
How your characters ask questions? Man will want brief, specific answer. He plans his questions in such way to get them. Woman will more often than a man ask rhetorical questions – intended to make a point and not to provoke an answer. Simple example from my novel: Lillium looked at Schnew, “Do you even listen?” – She is pointing out that he doesn’t. Women also ask for approval and validation of their actions. Male comments will be less dependent on reaction of others.
Second obstacle is how to describe our character. Don’t go with generic descriptions as young girl, old bold man and so on. Try to include background and personality. Example: I wear beard and long hair as a sign of mourning for the lost monarchy, someone else will wear it because he listens to metal, or he was hippy when he was young. Other people will wear short hair because they were in the army. I always have notebook and pen in my pocket to write my thoughts. Don’t be afraid to go through your character’s pockets. Someone else will carry medications or gun. My sister will make grocery lists and calculate prices in the store. Just be careful to choose details that reveal inner personality. Example: Subito my main characters walk little sideways so he could easy unsheat his sword. In one of my short stories main character is schizophrenic psychopath his hands hang and do not move as he walks, he looks through the people like they were not there. (When you write crazy killers it is important to know that they have feelings. Sociopaths will have same feelings as any normal person only they will disregard them because of learned behavior in traumatic childhood. Psychopaths can’t feel everything normal person does, their enzyme receptors don’t work like they should which makes them capable to react just to intense emotions.)
It is always better to show your characters in motion for example reading a book. My grandfather used to read the book’s ending before he would read the rest. When we show the world through our character’s eyes it is important to think what effects do their inner state have on their view of the world. Example: In my short story jealous girl at a party finds music annoying and her head hurts while other people enjoy dancing. We are trying to avoid info dump which is boring and cold and to engage reader’s emotions. Background information on our character is like a pill which cures readers curiosity and drag him into story, but don’t overdose the patient. Give him small doses in regular intervals.
Don’t make your character to perfect or pretty. Such people do not exist, only God is without flaw.
Don’t repeat same description over and over again. It is enough to describe his hair color and such near the beginning.
Don’t say everything about him/her in the same sentence use several spread around the chapter and in action. Example: He scratched his balding head is better than He was bald.
Don’t over explain. Example: She cried, instead of She cried because she was sad he left her.
Third obstacle: villains. We need to give villain a good reason to do what he does, even if we don’t agree with him. He can’t just do evil deeds, he needs to have objective same as the good characters. Objectives can be divided into ones he goes to (ideas, gain, approval…) and ones he runs from (bad experience, chores, duties…) He same as the main character has to have full personality with good and bad qualities. Hero needs to have something personal at stake, something readers don’t want him to lose. Don’t just make him want to stop the bad guy; he needs to depend on stopping the bad guy. It is important to remember that villain believes he is right, and we should give him good reasons to do so. From his point of view, he is a good guy, and our hero is a villain. If he is aware he is doing bad things, he thinks his actions are justified and have many reasons to believe so: teaching a lesson, cleansing the world from “bad” people, revenging wrongs done to them… Villain should be at least as strong as a hero or stronger. He should be defeated due to pre-defined character flaw. Villain or his assistants shouldn’t ever be stupid. To beat challenged person is not a nice thing to do, and we don’t want to put our heroes in such situations.
Fourth obstacle: How to introduce main character? We base our opinion of people (and characters) on our first impressions. Publisher needs to connect with a main character to publish your book. To make that connection grab your character by the collar and throw him into action. He needs to be doer, to brave unfavorable odds. Don’t make him conflict observer (even if he is a reporter from war zone). He shouldn’t complain but work to change what he doesn’t like. Don’t make him contemplate to show his past or problems, he should work to resolve them. He doesn’t need to succeed in solving problems. His actions can get him deeper into troubles. We can’t resolve every problem we face at once. It’s human to have weaknesses and fears, but it’s also human to always try to find a way around them. How character solves the problems keeps reader interested in story. Well written character has: conflict (obstacles on his way, man vs man, man vs nature, man vs self, obstacles should increase in severity), motivation (Motivation has to be personal, not just sense of right and wrong. If he confronts a gang member, that gang member should have something he wants or endanger someone he cares for. No one will risk his life just to show how good he is.), objective (what he is trying to achieve), good traits (he uses to resolve the conflict), bad traits (flaws he needs to overcome to resolve the conflict), and character arc (ugly duckling becomes a swan, character needs to grow and change from first chapter to the end, best way to do this is to show how he overcomes his bad traits and becomes a better person, himself – because he was afraid or in denial, or his environment should resist the change).
Obstacle number five: all characters sound the same. Here writer becomes an actor; he needs to give each character unique voice. First, we need to know who is our character, to become him, to speak in his words. What was his childhood? Was he encouraged or forbidden to take initiative and express emotions? That will make him shy or not. How educated is he, what does he work? Soldier and artist don’t speak or think same way. How old is he? Five year old, twenty years old and seventy years old don’t speak same way, and don’t have same world view. Neat trick is to assign certain phrases to characters and use them consistently. For instance someone will say “Hi”, other one “Hello”; teens will use slang; “OK” and “Alright”; curse words and colloquialisms,…
Last obstacle: make multidimensional characters. Surround your characters with people opposite to them to stress their characteristics. It also works with romance. Couple in love who are different doesn’t have to change; they can complement each other with qualities coming from their differences. You should make quirks for your characters to make them unique. These little habits should make sense, magnify main traits of characters. Example: In my novel Lillium desires knowledge above anything else. Her quirk is to collect old things – her house looks like a museum, that made her leave her clan and travel the world which is strange in the eyes of her people. Give your character a secret, something that would change his life for worse if revealed. This makes them vulnerable and reader is compelled to care about them. Multidimensional character has to be composed of at least two conflicting one-dimensional characters. They shouldn’t be total opposites (like angel and devil sitting on each shoulder), just have different ideals (like two angels with different ideas of duty and good on each shoulder). Example: Miratur has grown without a father. She wants family and peaceful life. She also wants to clear the name of her father, executed as a traitor, which means she needs to go to war. Internal conflict between good and good is created, she is not sure which one to choose and it gives her character a depth.
My character sheet:
|Motivation(what does he want):
|Conflict(what is keeping him from getting what he wants):
· Physical appearance
· Eye color
· Hair color
· Body type / height & weight
· Predominant feature
· Manner of walk
· Biggest fear
· He hates most
· Bad habit
· Speech patterns + Curse words
· Most prized possession
· Musical instrument?
· Animal companions?
· Very skilled at
· Very unskilled at
· Character flaw
· Quirks / strange behavior patterns
· Weird talents
· How does he face problems?
· How does he react to change?
|What can she do at the end that he can’t at the beginning?
|Dark wound from past: