How To Build Characters That Stay With Your Readers

At some point or the other, almost all of you must have wondered - what is more important? Character or the story? A valid question and my answer has always been my characters. 

Whenever I have thought of books, stories to write, it has spurned from a character. The situation they are in their lives, the actions that they perform, the decisions that they make is what makes a story for me. Hence, I give a lot of importance to building characters in my story. But how to build characters that can stay with your readers? 

Here are some of the tricks that I have learnt through research and from my friends:

1. Research Your Characters : Your character is a cop? Research the ways of cop, their profession, the hardships, or perks. Research exhaustively to reflect the life of a cop. This would ensure that your character's reaction to situation are as real-life as possible. Don't underestimate your reader when it comes to research. They often know much more than you because they do come from those professions. 

2. Know Your Characters Inside-Out: Some experts advise you to go as deep as their favorite ice-cream flavor (which is good to know, btw) but I do not go that far. If I know what makes my character tick, what scares her, what makes her happy, her habits, postures, etc., I think I am good. One of the ways, I keep track of that is writing out the story of each character. I dedicate about 1-2 pages to it, telling the story from their POV. It helps me see where they are coming from and their reactions as the story unfolds. 

You can also use post-its for each character and stick on your desk for easy reference. I use full A-4 pages!

3. Visualise your character: I often wish I could sketch but alas! My hands fail me miserably at the task. My sketches often end up looking like abominations on human race. See, I have this image of my characters in my head and I yearn to get them on paper for me to react to them better. Lucky thing that we are in the internet age because now you can google images! I often google for my characters and I do find people very similar to them. For example, my current novel that I am working on, Painting Ethan, has Ethan looking this way. 
Go on, swoon. :)  It helps me so much better in writing. Well, I guess a face like that would inspire anyone to write. LOL!
But you get the point, right? 

4. Still struggling? Talk to them: I have heard a lot of people telling me this. Interview your characters. Ask them questions about how they feel about a situation. Often their answers would be so different than yours. It is an incredible resource for you to know them better. Come on, try it.

Finally, the most important thing in creating believable characters is to believe in them yourself.  Treat them like real people and your readers will do the same! 

What do you do to create great characters? Which are some of the characters in books you have read that have stayed with you long after you read them?

Comments

  1. That's Ethan!!!

    *swoons*

    Very helpful tips for writers! Thanks Shilpa.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for these tips, Shilpa. And Ethan is just delectable

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Missie - You are welcome. That photo has been a major motivation for till now! LOL!

    @Cece - Please leave my Ethan alone. You have Kim and Jess! Haha...you are welcome. Hope they are helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an excellent post! Character development is so important and you gave great advice. I love to draw my characters because it helps me get to know them.

    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess
    http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  5. I create character sketches for each of my characters and they're very detailed. I include their physical descriptions, birthdays, fears, goals, etc. etc. Lately, I have decided to have a big storyboard where I can put photos and add descriptions of my characters. A good computer program that does that is Srivner. I have yet to try it. Since I'm a character driven writer, I have to visualize my characters before writing my novel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Geraldine - I have heard a lot about Scrivener (if that is the one you are referring). I have never used it and personally old microsoft word seems to do the job for me. Yet, I understand the need to do more and in a more organized way. Some times, I crave for that too and end up putting up post-its. Its amazing how deeply you document your characters. Birthdays too? Wow! :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oops, yes Scrivener. Another good program is Storyabit. Yes, I try to make my character sketches as detailed as possible.

    Btw, stop over my blog where I awarded you The Versatile Blogger

    http://geraldinescorner.blogspot.com/2011/11/celebration-of-blogging.html

    Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete

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