Characters are an important element of every story. So how do you make sure your story has characters that stand out? That readers find interesting and believable?
Writers in the Storm posted an article about becoming your character, so that you don’t make mistakes like head hop or have multiple viewpoints for one character. The best way to do that is to become your character. That way, Marcy Kennedy explained, we can better remember that we only know our own thoughts and feelings, not someone else’s, we can only experience things within our eye sight or within our ear shot as they happen, and our past and personality determines how we react and interpret things.
According to Marcy, who wrote the book Point of View in Fiction:
Point of view isn’t merely another writing craft technique. Point of view is the foundation upon which all other elements of the writing craft stand—or fall. It’s the opinions and judgments that color everything the reader believes about the world and the story. It’s the voice of the character that becomes as familiar to the reader as their own. It’s what makes the story real, believable, and honest.
A character’s self-sacrifice can also help pull readers in. K.M. Weiland, from Helping Writers Become Authors, said that “Self-sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love—and so, of course, it’s an endlessly powerful story catalyst.”
To make the self-sacrifice even more powerful, K.M. said that you should have a scene earlier in the story that sets up the self-sacrifice, by showing how much your character wants something. Doing that shows the reader that the character is doing something really hard when he or she self-sacrifices.
Another aspect to consider to round out characters is internal dialogue. Writers in the Storm shares in a post that internal dialogue helps show emotion, in addition to helping to pace the story. According to Marcy Kennedy, the most effective internal dialogue is not repeated in actual dialogue or action, it should be used to share important thoughts, and it should be told in the character’s voice, not the author’s. Additionally, internal dialogue should sound like dialogue, so that it sounds natural.
Author Zoo also recommends using juxtaposition, to help show a character’s motivation. Lana Pecherczyk gives two examples of using juxtaposition: as a flashback in a tense scene or in characterization, to make the reader think more about that character.
Last, if you want some advice for how to become an overall better writer, check out McSweeney’s “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do.” Colin Nissan lists tips and explains in a tongue-in-cheek way why those tips are useful. Advice includes writing every day, not procrastinating, reading a lot, and finding a muse (though he cautions, “Beware of muses who promise unrealistic timelines for your projects or who wear wizard clothes”).
Originally published August, 2016