Are Your Characters Made of Flesh and Blood?
by Joanne Troppello
How do you create unique three-dimensional characters that will stay with your readers long after they finish reading your book? Have you ever asked yourself this question? If you’re an author, this is a question you should be asking yourself—if you want to truly connect with your readers and create memorable characters.
You need to make your character just like a real person not some fictional flat character that no one will remember.
This technique begins with people watching. You need to figure out why people act the way they do. What do people want out of life? How do people deal with struggles? What makes humans real and not robotic?
Of course, as you write your story, the plot line will move along. However, to make the characters extraordinary, you need to let your characters tell the story—and be memorable.
Readers need to get inside the characters’ heads and feel what they are feeling and know what they are thinking.
If you're only telling a story and not showing it, you're not writing an unforgettable book.
You need to show, not just tell.
1. You first need the basics.
Male or female, age (at least generally speaking like mid-twenties, middle-aged etc.), what’s the character’s job, and basic physical appearance, as well as personality. Once you get the basics then the fun part begins. Now you get to flesh out your characters. Make sure you give your character a problem—whether it is an emotional, physical, or spiritual one.
2. What’s in a name…Naming your characters is very important as well.
One of the minor characters in my book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess is the butler and I thought about naming him James. However, that’s stereotypical of a butler. I called him Nigel—British sounding but less like a butler. The heroine, Sophie, her name did not have any meaning to me. The hero is called Sebastian Shipley. I was going for a name fit for a dashing, yet modern gentleman.
Obviously, it’s your decision on whether or not you utilize stereotypes for characters, but that won’t be very interesting to your readers and it’s especially not a good idea for your main characters. You can use some stereotypes, but the point of writing memorable characters is for you to step outside of the box and create interesting, believable, three-dimensional people.
3. What is your character’s personality like?
Is he a strong type A person? Is she more laidback and impulsive?
Don’t just say Sophie is laidback. Show that she is. Show her actions that she is more relaxed and not easily bothered by change. Set her up in scenes where you can show her impetuous side and that she might drag the more reserved, Sebastian, out on an impromptu date. What are the mannerisms and habits your character will exhibit? You need to show these to your readers.
People are not perfect. If you thought that then maybe you’re living on another planet. So why would you make your characters perfect? That makes them unbelievable and that will defeat your ultimate purpose of creating the unforgettable novel.
4. So what problems does your character have?
Maybe he has anger issues, or she has problems trusting men. That will affect their relationships. You need to get this out into your storyline and create scenes where such issues can be fleshed out, not just told to the readers.
Writing in deep POV is extremely helpful in achieving success in your writing.
Jump into the mind of your character and bring your reader with you. As you write, it’s very effective to keep to one character’s POV per scene. If you head hop to another character, just make sure that it doesn’t jar the readers out of the scene into a tailspin of confusion. You want every aspect of your story to flow together seamlessly so that your readers are fully engaged and not confused and wanting to put the book down and not finish reading.
5. Do you know what motivates your characters?
If you don’t know, you’ll never be able to get that across to your readers in a believable fashion. Is your character motivated by greed or love or bitterness? There are so many different aspects of character motivation that you can utilize. If he or she is motivated by greed, what made this character live like that? Share that catalyst and it will be another great factor to draw the readers in to the story.
One of the best ways to know if your characters are believable is to ask yourself: do you remember your characters? Do you want to read more stories about them?
The likelihood that you care about your characters will mean that others will too. Always be open to learn new techniques for character development and don’t shy away from editors.
Meticulous editing will assist you, if you’re willing to take constructive criticism, in writing the best novel.
For Mr. Shipley’s Governess, I had two awesome editors through a two year period of writing and editing, who helped me see critical aspects of proper writing techniques that I was missing. Sure, I could have ignored their assistance, but I wanted my writing to be my best.
How do you flesh out believable three-dimensional characters? Are there any memorable characters from books you’ve read that have stayed with you long after reading the story?
About the Author
Joanne Troppello is a published author of 3 inspirational fiction novels and the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Pandora's Box Gazette.
She has experience as a freelance writer in topics such as marketing, retail marketing, health and wellness, internet and media, travel and lifestyle, website content, app recommendations, and content for blogs.