Where do great characters come from?  How do we take a lack-luster character and make it something special?

Sketching_Dian_Sastrowardoyo_by_indra15

When I come up with a new character for a story, 9 times out of 10 I draw them.  Usually my drawing will tell a fragment of a story, and the whole book goes from there.  But here are some ways to come up with additional detail that could take your character from flat to multidimensional.

 

1. Backstory

Even if you never use this in your book, think about where this person comes from.  What has happened to them (or not happened to them) in their past?  What kind of family background do they come from?  What has been their reaction to adversity in the past?  Knowing where a person’s been helps inform where they will logically go next, even if it’s just for the author.

 

2. Unique Habits

I’m talking about more than just chomping gum or clearing one’s throat.  Make this an integral part of the person.  Really picture them.  How does she move?  What does his voice sound like?  Sometimes when I really immerse myself in a scene, I notice my character doing something spontaneous that becomes a part of who they are.

 

3. Avoid Cliches

A lot of the time a character seems 2-dimensional because they’re really just a walking cliche.  Try to break the mould a bit, and they’ll come to life.

 

4. Flaws

Nobody’s perfect – at least in real life.  So your character shouldn’t be perfect either.  Perfect in a story is boring.  A good story needs trouble, either bombarding your character from the outside, or giving them room to change on the inside.

 

So, this is a list to start with, anyway.  Feel free to add anything else I might have forgotten 😉

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