Creating characters that are full of life, personality, well-rounded and real is far harder to do then you might think. It’s more then describing them, more then giving them names, history and physicality. It takes more then rich colorful language and a strong handle of how to use it.
And honestly, characterization is one thing that I have often struggled with. Creating diverse settings that pulse with a life of their own – that I’m generally good with, it doesn’t faze me. But doing the same for my characters… simply not the same.
One trick I have learned is to not sweat those descriptions during my first draft. (Simply put: during that first draft it’s perfectly fine to simply say “she has green eyes” or “he has dark brown hair.”) If you’re like me and struggle with your characters, in the first draft just focus on getting the story down first. Once you’ve got that done then you can go back and add more.
With story down on the page you can go back and focus on the characters – describe their looks; give color and depth to their personalities. (“His rich brown hair was so dark, in moments of fantasy it sparked images of having dipped him in lush dark chocolate.”) Give them quirks. (“I discovered that she had this annoying habit of lifting her dark brows and opening her brilliantly green eyes wide, making them appear even more like highly faceted emeralds set into the fine setting of her face.”)
Once you do that you’ll discover that suddenly they’re alive and you’ll better connect with them. Then you build them emotionally – give them strengths, weaknesses, fears and dreams. And that’s when you find that now they have that pulsing life that you need from them.
That’s when they become real.
It takes time. Patience.
But the more you write, the more often you’ll find that without even focusing effort on creating real, life-like characters that you’re writing that spark into them thoughtlessly. Some characters will grow easily, organically on the page and some are frustratingly more difficult.
The bottom line is to find a method that works for you, whatever that may be. But also remember that sometimes your method will change, with certain stories or characters you may go about their creation differently. And that’s okay.
So what are some methods you use for creating, building and bringing your characters to life?