I think it’s safe to say that characters are my favorite part of stories.
Whether I’m writing or reading them. The quiet ones and the loud ones, the humble and the proud, the dignified and the goofy, the clumsy and the agile. All of them just pull me in. I like knowing what makes characters tick. What drives them. What their little quirks are, how they interact with others and how they respond to certain situations.
People are interesting that way and, to some extent, it’s their personalities that drive the story. Any story that you read, if the main character had been different or acted differently than was his nature, the story probably wouldn’t have happened.
It’s very important for any writer to make their characters realistic and consistent in their personalities. If the behavior of your character isn’t consistent, it takes away from the draw of your story.
Say your character makes a decision that was not very smart. He jumped in too fast without a plan and now the story is hung up with some big problem.
If this character had been a quiet, cautious scientist that always has a plan and would have preferred staying in his lab and experimenting to being part of this adventure, the reader would feel cheated.
They’d roll their eyes and say “I wouldn’t have done that. Why on earth did he?”
And the last thing you want people to think your characters are is stupid.
Buuut . . . there is still a way to do that sort of move, and still keep your readers’ attention.
Say your character is an explorer. He loves adventure and anything that gets his blood pumping. He tends to get overexcited about things and often got in trouble as a kid for doing things without asking or thinking about the consequences. He still has trouble with that and hates plans of any kind. No one tells him what to do.
Now, take this guy and make him do the same thing that scientist just did.
Not so confusing anymore, huh?
This is a lot more believable because it’s in his character to do something like that. The readers are a lot more likely to just shake their heads, smile and say “Yep, that’s Explorer Dude for you. Of course he did that.”
Another fun and interesting thing you can do with characters and using their qualities correctly is humor writing. Yes, bouncing characters off each other, even in just a simple conversation can be hilarious.
Just think about your family having a conversation together. You’re all different people, all with different opinions and different habits. Sometimes it’s just funny when your sibling does something that’s just so . . . so . . . THEM that it’s hard not to laugh.
That, I think is one of the best possible kinds of humor to put in your book.
And the key to that is good characterization.
Anyway, here are some ways I like to use to develop my characters.
- Just write down things they like and don’t like. This is an awesome way to bring out those funny little quirks and give your characters habits that they carry through their story. I have lists for all my characters on this and let’s just say they get pretty funny.
- Find a bunch of different character development sheets to fill out. And fill out them all. This is a little hard, but very productive.
- Throughout your day, in different situations, just think about what your character would do or say.
And, a newer method,
- Pretend you are your character and take the MBTI test.
This is actually really fun. You can take it for multiple characters and contrast the types, which is funny. And it gives you a good, long look inside your characters’ heads.
All the types are exhaustively researched, their strengths and weaknesses written down and how they interact with other people, which is very helpful. It gives you some ground to stand on as far as what your character would do in real life.
Here are a few of my character types from 16personalities.com
Those are the ones I’ve done so far.
Seriously, it’s fun. I mean, Robin and Jean are opposites? I could totally see that. 😄
Anyway, have fun with your characters and please talk to me in the comments!
I’d love to hear what you think and what are some ways you use to develop characters!
Oh, and tell me how the MBTI thing turns out. 😉