Giving characters in a story the depth necessary to make them feel real can sometimes be a challenge. It takes practice, thought, feeling. You have to put yourself in their mind and see through their eyes to define their personalities and actions. When your characters encounter a situation in your story, try to think of how they would react based on who they are as people.
Here are a few tips for character writing:
Giving characters a long backstory isn’t always necessary for the reader to relate to them. Their dialogue, mannerisms, and reactions to situations may reflect how the reader sees themselves.
These bits of information can be inserted with dialogue here and there, in place of ‘he/she/they’ said. For example, rather than ‘telling’ the reader your character wears glasses, ‘show’ them by having the character put them down, or adjust them, or accidentally step on them and break them (this detail could further define your character by displaying how the character reacts to breaking their glasses: do they get angry and lose their temper? Do they become disappointed, annoyed, depressed? Are they just neutral and shrug their shoulders because they’re used to bad luck?)
Describing in detail how your characters look isn’t always necessary, and sometimes can make them less relatable to the reader. Not to say you shouldn’t describe them, but if you do, there should be a good reason. Maybe your character’s appearance is important to who they are or is connected to the story. Or perhaps the character’s appearance is necessary to make them menacing or deceiving in some way. There are plenty of reasons to describe their appearance.
But there’s one good reason not to.
Leaving a blank slate for how a character looks, and giving an impression of them through dialogue, mannerisms, and small details, allows the reader to see them how they prefer. A reader will more than likely imagine their own image of how a character looks before you even describe them. The description can throw off the readers perception. Allowing the reader to see the character as they wish allows them to more easily relate to them. This is especially true for stories written in first-person perspective.
But no advice or style is absolute. Describing characters for a particular reason is just as important as not describing them at all!
That awesome red cape the villain wears might be worth noting.
Thanks for reading!
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If you have a chance, check out my debut novella, Zero Perspective.
Lost in the depths of space and time, swallowed by something unknown to humanity, a derelict ship is adrift in an alternate reality.
John and his crew board the vessel, the Esometa, on a rescue mission. The ship’s been lost for two weeks with no explanation. When they discover its occupants dead and decaying, a mind-bending journey begins.
The Esometa takes them down a path filled with horrid creatures and bizarre events from which there may be no return…
Lee Forman is a writer and editor from the Hudson Valley, NY. His fascination with the macabre began in childhood, watching old movies and reading everything he could get his hands on. He’s a third-generation horror fanatic, starting with his grandfather who was a fan of the classic Hollywood Monsters. His work has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, websites, and podcasts. He’s an editor for Sirens Call Publications and writes, edits, and is an administrator for the horror fiction website PenoftheDamned.com. He’s also a regular contributor of non-fiction articles for Living Paranormal Magazine. Check out his debut novella, Zero Perspective on Amazon! When he’s not crafting horrifying creatures and tales of terror, he spends his time playing guitar and writing music. For more information and a list of publications go to www.leeformanauthor.com