Characters That Sound Like You

In fiction, the characters you create are one important half of what it takes to keep readers reading. A reader wants to be interested in your POV or narrator character. You may have heard the terms “likeable,” “sympathetic,” or “compelling” used to describe a good main character. These characteristics help the reader “root for” or care about what happens to that person. One of the most frequent problems I see in fiction is a story where all the characters sound like their author.

Writing Tip for Today:

  • A character chart might be helpful in order for you the writer, to make the characters each memorable and well-defined. Make a list of the attributes, physical and emotional, you want the characters to possess.
  • Practice writing dialogue for each character.
  • Make a “Reaction” chart. Outline briefly how each of your characters might react to the same situation.
  • Give your characters tags. Tags are habits, tics or other identifiers, such as a character who’s always fiddling with her hair, a guy who jingles his pocket change, or someone who says, “Garsh!” when they are definitely not Goofy.
  • Be sure to introduce characters slowly enough (one or two at a time) for the reader to remember each of them. If you put all the players on stage at once before the reader has a chance to get to know them, that reader will feel overwhelmed and may not remember any of them.
  • Do a computer search for “Fiction +Writing + Characters. You’ll find online resources and exercises to help you with character development.

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