There’s no doubt about it—characterization is important in any story. Every writer wants to create the character that no one can forget. When you think Star Trek or the Harry Potter series of books who comes to mind? For some it’s Captain Kirk, for others Spock, or maybe you think Data or Captain Picard or Deanna Troy. I personally like the hologram doctor. Maybe Harry Potter is your favorite character, or Dumbledore, or Professor Snipe. One thing I’ll guarantee is that your favorite character comes to mind whenever someone mentions these stories.
So how do you create memorable characters? Here are four tips I hope you’ll find helpful.
- Can the cardboard characters. Stereotypical characters went out of vogue with silent movies. Your readers no longer want to see mustache twirling villains, helpless heroines and Dudley Dolittle save-the-day heroes. Good characters come complete with faults, foibles, secrets and redeeming qualities that contribute to who they are.
- Create conflict. No one wants to read a book where nothing happens. A character who goes through the book with no opposition or faces no problems creates not only a boring story, but a boring character. Conflict, external and internal, makes your characters grow. Throw everything you’ve got at the characters, and when you think it’s bad enough add something else. The old adage—what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger—is true for your hero, heroine, and villain. Of course, it might be what tips the protagonist or antagonist over the edge, but hey, use it to your advantage.
- Connect your readers to your characters. When readers connect to characters they are empathizing with them because they know, on some level, what the character is going through. Every woman wants to find her own Prince Charming. Every man, even if he won’t admit it, is looking for the right woman. Finding something in your character that resonates with the reader will make your character come alive on the page.
- Create consistency in your characters. It’s a rare person who doesn’t act consistently. We are creatures of habit by nature and find it extremely uncomfortable to be put in situations outside our comfort zone. If you put your character’s behavior or thoughts all over the board, you risk losing your reader’s interest because they won’t believe in your character. However, consistency of character doesn’t mean your characters will always act the same. We are often different people in different situations or circumstance. The teenager that everyone else thinks is perfectly mannered can be curt, rude, and inconsiderate in his own home. (Anyone who ever lived with a teenager can attest to this.) A woman who would never touch a gun, might change her mind if someone she loves is being threatened. Fear, desperation, love, hate, and secrets we hold close can be powerful motivators when it comes to how we act and react. In fact, it’s often the forcing of a person to act inconsistently that causes them to grow. Just be sure you cleverly foreshadow whatever abnormal behavior you plan for your characters so the readers can say, “Aha! That’s why he did (or said) that.” If you don’t, the reader will feel you cheated them.
Who is the character you remember most from your reading, or movies, and why did they make an impression on you?