Using a popular middle grade novel, I combed through the pages looking for five methods of characterization that, when put together, made the characters memorable and realistic. You may be saying, I don’t have time for that or, “I’ve read it and I can tick off things I know about the character.” But consider this a crucial task in developing as a writer so that your characters don’t fall flat.So what exactly can we observe about memorable characters to demystify why they work? It breaks down to the following five items:
· Physical descriptions: These are usually scant and easy to start with because good writing includes a somewhat limited idea of what a character actually looks like. But memorable writing hooks the reader with at least one thing they can hold onto for each character.
· Actions: How does your character move? Do they have a physical hobby or a way of moving when interacting with someone else? What they do reveals a lot about your character by showing, not telling.
· Dialogue: This is a two-step process. Not only are you looking for what a character directly says, but delve deeper into that speech. Is there something they’re really saying but not coming right out with it? Is there something they’re not saying? Read between the lines, so to speak.
· Effects on others: Take a close look at how characters are responding to the character in question. Are they influenced by the way your character is behaving or speaking? Does your character compel others to act or speak like them? Unlike them?
· Beliefs or thoughts: Good writing is likely not going to come right out and tell you about your character’s belief system or values. You will have to read between the lines again, maybe using some of the features listed above to draw your own conclusions. Are they optimistic, fearful, conservative, liberal, faithless? This is hard to pin down, but will pay out in dividends because as you write your own characters, you’ll be able to anticipate their reaction to an event you craft.
The idea is that in closely studying why you fell in love with (or blatantly despised) a character from another book, you’ll be better equipped to craft your own memorable characters. You’ll be amazed at how much double-duty your writing is doing to reveal character while moving your plot forward.We’d love to know what you think. Can you recall a memorable character from a favorite read that you can hold onto through one of these methods of characterization? Have you studied these facets of the characters you’re currently writing? Please share to comments.