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10 Tips to Make Your Characters Shine

  1. Give them a quirk. This doesn’t have to be something big, just consistent and something that will set them apart from the other characters.
  2. Give them a flaw. No one is perfect. I know I’m not. It’s the flaws, big and little, that make us human.
  3. Give them a secret. As an actor, my drama coach always said to create a secret for our character to give them depth. No one needed to know what the secret was, but it would show in our performance.
  4. Give them a phobia. Everyone has fears. The most memorable characters will show those fears at some point, yet be able to conquer them.
  5. Make them true to themselves. Readers will be jarred out of the story if your character does something that’s out of character, without good reason. It’s the equivalent of a perfect child suddenly doing drugs.
  6. Give them something to care about. No one likes people who don’t care. If your characters, even the villains, are totally heartless they become stereotypical. Even bad guys care about something or love someone.
  7. Give them appropriate tags to show, not tell, the reader about them. I can’t say enough about show don’t tell. Appropriate tags that let the reader see the character rather than telling the reader what you want them to know makes characters, and stories, sparkle.
  8. Make them reveal emotions. Your characters emotions are the readers’ window to the heroes’, heroines’, and villains’ souls. Let the readers see, and figure out for themselves, what the characters are all about.
  9. Give them something they must do or achieve to gain happiness. This speaks to goal, motivation and conflict. If a character doesn’t have to stretch and grow, then you don’t have a full character.
  10. Provide only enough background to make you reader believe in him. Burying the reader under mounds of background that doesn’t matter to your story is like putting honey on top of jelly. It’s superfluous and unnecessary. Less is more. Just be sure you include the important stuff that speaks to the character’s motivation. Leave the rest on your character sheets where it belongs.

© Catherine Castle

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