How to create a good character pt 2
When you are creating a character your aim is to make him stand out from all the other characters in the world. You certainly don’t want the reader to be bored after the first three paragraphs or to say, “Hey, wasn’t this guy in the last J.K Rowling book?”
In this post I want to talk about creating greater depth in your characters. There are three major ways of doing this, character flaws, speech patterns and reactions. Our character looks like this at the moment: Roach is an ugly, shy gnome. Now let’s add a character flaw.
Flaws are something that is not in line with what you would expect from the character. You can have a bad guy who feels compassion for small fluffy kittens or a good guy who steals. These flaws give the characters more dept because it is so out of line with what you would expect.
Let’s take our hero, Roach. He comes from a mother who tried to strangle him, so let’s add the flaw that he steals photos of pretty girls. This can be as a result of him never feeling nurtured. When you write your story you want to add one or two incidents that reflect his flaw, but you don’t want to over-do it. Remember that he is still our hero.
Speech patterns are also a good way of adding individuality to your character. Long, complicated words and sentences send a different meaning about a character than short, sentences and little description.
We know that Roach is shy, so when he speaks we need to make sure the words are short, perhaps, no more than three or four word sentences. (This could be a great character growth signal – we will talk about this in a future post.)
Now all we need to do is develop his character reactions. These reactions come from how a character feels about certain topics. This information is based on his history, so let’s explore him a little further. We know his mother tried to strangle him.
We can continue the story by saying that she ran away into the forest and was never seen again. (Perhaps this is why he wants to see what’s on the other side of the forest. Maybe he is hoping to find her.) With his mother gone, someone had to raise him.
We know that he didn’t have a lot of maternal love (which is why he steals the photos of pretty women.) How about a grandfather? This way he had an older male in his life. Knowing these things means that we can draw some reactions, based on his history.
He could be afraid of losing his grandfather and become defensive if someone mocks older people. He could be so shy of girls that he cannot talk to them. He can be naturally cautious because his grandfather is. He can want to be adventurous, but he is afraid of losing his grandfather’s love. For example: Roach walked along the alley, trying to avoid a bunch of girls when he heard shouting. He peered around a corner and saw three young gnomes robbing the old baker. “Hey,” he shouted. “Leave him.” The three robbers turned to look at him. When they saw Roach standing in the doorway to the shop they began to laugh. Roach felt his skin tingle as his anger flared. “Leave him. Now.”