Three: Characters 101

Three: Characters 101

A Lesson by Belator Books
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The Who!

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Once you know what you wish to write about, how it will be laid out and from which perspective 'twill be penned, you need to focus on the WHO of the story: the characters, the Main Character(s) in particular. I’ve learned to bear in mind one phrase while writing my book folks: keep it simple & keep it real. Characters follow along with the ‘write what you know’ lesson of yore. The elusive hint of realism hovers as the Grand Prize in any marathon of prose-creation; if you are writing about humans then basing your book-folks off people that you know well--whether you like or dislike said people--infuses your characters with human traits.

Here are some important things to consider while forming your character’s personality:

1. Avoid the alluring realm of Perfect. No one wants to read about flawless people who have all the looks, wealth and talent of the Mount Olympus deities and as a result never encounter any difficulties/disappointments in their lives. Give your characters human flaws, human habits and human problems, though not too many of them (see section four on Action). For instance, while some of the characters in my books may be physically attractive (some are not) they have annoying traits like stubbornness, they sometimes jump to conclusions, make bad decisions or even possess nervous habits like nail-biting; try to include a fallacy in your character which is shared by many humans in many cultures, such as ‘insecurity’. One can even write about 'ugly' or plain characters and pull it off resoundingly, such as in C. S. Forester's The African Queen.

2. If your characters have flaws, then use them. Most folks on this planet feel disappointment, have arguments, stumble over a social faux pas and make stupid decisions, once in awhile. Most humans also usually learn from their mistakes, sometimes take advice and grow in maturity over a period of time.

3. Avoid the incredibly-cliched character whose thought process is riddled with Indecision. The number one over-used plot is The Love Triangle; this device dogs the heels of the indecision-prone character like a gray wraith of unhappiness. Again, avoid this by modeling your main after a real person, and have them act accordingly. Most thinking humans can and do make informed decisions each and every day... indeed, this feat is accomplished repeatedly throughout the waking hours.

4. Avoid the dominant use of slang. Some minor characters might use slang or a few cultural colloquialisms BUT doing so predominately in the prose ‘dates’ your book and substantially limits your audience. For example, in twenty years readers may not 'get' the significance of the text abbreviation OMG, let alone understand its application to your character's dialog. If you see a bit of slang in your character's speech, or in the narrative, try to think of how the sentence would look in the eyes someone outside your own circle, age group... or for a greater challenge, try viewing the prose from the perspective of a foreigner.

5. Keep it simple: don’t over-describe your characters appearance; if possible, try to accomplish descriptions through the eyes of the other characters. It is very easy to say ‘too much’ about clothes, belongings or one’s home. Once you have described the character, avoid repeating said descriptions over and over again; the audience is intelligent enough to remember what they look like.

Recommended 'Character Development' Reading List:

The African Queen (C. S. Forester), My Family & Other Animals (Gerald Durrell), Mrs. Mike (B & N Freedman), Pride & Prejudice (Austen), The Horatio Hornblower Series (Forester again), The Testament (Grisham), The Legacy (Nevil Shute), A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Doyle) & The Count of Monte Cristo (A. Dumas).

Read the above, and learn character-writing skills from some of the best authors in history. 


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Comments

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Posted 7 Months Ago


this is very helpful to the writers like us...

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Posted 8 Months Ago


May I add to this list for 'characters'?
Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels have some really well built characters.
A popular pastime for his fans is trying to 'cast' different individuals.
The power of his writing is apparent when consensus is so easily reached... Or someone will react with 'Of course!! They are perfect, why didn't I think of them?'
His work isn't literature, it IS entertainment, and well crafted entertainment at that.

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Posted 11 Months Ago


This was very helpful, Thank you!!

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Posted 11 Months Ago


Thanks it was lovely.

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Posted 1 Year Ago


This is so useful. Thank you!

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Posted 1 Year Ago


I really appreciated the comments regarding 'slang'. I always struggle with making my characters realistic, and few people I know practice perfect grammar, diction or speech. However, your points about making the work dated, rings true and makes perfect sense. So, what's the 'happy medium'? Surely there is a way to incorporate realism of class and culture, without limiting how current the writing is.

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Posted 1 Year Ago


Thanks for the advice. Is it important to have perfect English while writing??

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Posted 1 Year Ago


Great I knew most of that stuff, Being reminded works for me as I a have tendency to forget what I have learned previously.

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Posted 1 Year Ago


Great advice, thank you. <3

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Posted 1 Year Ago


I nearly skipped this chapter because I pretty much have my characters figured out, but I'm glad I didn't! The bit about slang really helped me. And I think I do tend to describe my characters appearances rather vividly so I'm glad you brought this to my attention.

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Belator Books
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About
The Styles are two fiction writers with day jobs. Married 17 years, 4 children and an organic garden. Twitter: @BelatorBooks & @writerlrstyles WordPress Blogs: www.lrstyles.wordpress.com www..