How do you make such intriguing, solid, and consistent characters in your stories? It’s so easy to feel for them! How do you do it?
Even though I’m not exactly an expert writer, I’ve been asked that so much recently that I finally decided to blog about it.
I’ve heard many writers ending up getting stuck in the middle of writing a story not because they run out of ideas, but because they don’t like their characters anymore. Sometimes it seems like their characters aren’t behaving the way they should, and are therefore ruining the storyline. This is a pretty common problem, I think, and a problem that could have been avoided if the characters had been planned well.
So how do I make my characters consistent?
Read full post…1.) Determine who (and what) they are
This one’s a pretty obvious answer.
In the early planning stages, I decide what I want my characters to be like. You can do this before or after mapping out your storyline. Decide what they look like, and how they act. Are they tall, or short? Are they outgoing, or shy? Short tempered or incredibly patient? Playful or strict?
When you have pictured your character, you can make an draft how you’re going to introduce them in your story. But you can save that for later.
2.) Imagine who they will be
This one is important, and weaves very well with your story plot. You have to know what your characters will be like by the end of the story.
I always, always plan this out at the early stages of story creation. You see, when you’ve determined the “final form” of your character, you can mix that with your general plot to form the events that will shape your story. That way, the direction of the story will be clear to you, and you would immediately know if your players are already going out of character or not.
Sometimes I even think of what they were like before the actual storyline, just in case I suddenly find the need to do flashbacks. I did this when I was writing Blue Star, and ended up writing a sequel and a prequel. The prequel, Ribbon, got more readers and positive reviews than the first story. And the sequel, Kaji o Sagashite, got even more response from the audience!
3. ) Give them habits that’ll make them unique (and make people laugh, while you’re at it)
Aside from thinking up the general things, it’s always helpful to think up something that makes each character unique.
Do they have habits (twirling a lock of hair around their finger when thinking) or speech patterns (adding a syllable at the end of sentences, or maybe a favorite word to use)? Do they passionately like something (chocolate ice cream), or hate something (cockroaches)? Whatever it may be, make sure it becomes prominent, as this will help in making each character unique and constant. Be careful: and don’t over-use these habits, because they may become annoying.
Of course, make sure to match this with your story genre. Like, if you’re writing comedy, exaggerate them a bit. And if you’re writing a drama, don’t make the habits too comedic, unless you’re planning to make it serve as a comic relief.
4.) Throw realistic situations at them
People love it when they can sympathize with at least one of characters. Otherwise, the story won’t have a connection with the audience.
I’ll clarify, though, that when I say “realistic” situations, I don’t mean that everything that happens in your story needs to be within the bounds of possible. Aliens invading the earth may be unrealistic (depending on your school of thought), but the realistic situation there would be when your lead character is faced with the challenge of protecting his loved ones. Or something like that.
Bottom line is: make your readership watch your character and think, “That’s exactly what I would do if I was in his shoes!!!”
5.) Let them LIIIIIIIIVE!!!
So now you’ve got awesome characteristics listed down for your players, and you know exactly how they’re supposed to act.
But, you know, you gotta give them space to breathe. Sometimes it’s unavoidable for some adjustments to happen. Your characters may suddenly seem to have a life of their own and move differently from what you had planned. This is perfectly all right. Plans really are just guidelines, and they are not meant to box our creativity.
Stories are more beautiful if they are given space to flow and evolve. Sort of like how a ballroom is HUGE so that there is more space for free expression. I always let my characters dance, or whisper in my ear, “Won’t it be more fun if I did this other thing?” More often than not, by the end of the story, I end up with my characters being more established and interesting and…ALIVE… more than I had originally planned.
Plan your characters properly before letting them run free. If you let them loose too early, you might have trouble reining them in by the middle of the story. Yes, guide your characters, but don’t be a dictator. Play with them! Have fun with them! Love them, let your story show why you love them, and I’m sure your audience will love them, too!
I hope this helps all you writers struggling with your characters…
And if you’re a writer, too, share your thoughts! How do you create your characters?
This is also a submission to Problogger‘s Killer Titles group writing project.