Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't Let Your Characters Become Cold Sores

I think one of the biggest mistakes I realize I made as a beginning writer was the lack of getting to really KNOW my characters. Sure I knew their names, what they looked like, where they came from, the dynamics of their family, blahbitty-blah. But the most important piece I was missing was their motivation. The REASONS they did what did, thought what they thought, had the quirks they had…

And the result of that deficiency was a tragic case of two-dimensional characters. Ew.

It took a whole lot of reading (fiction and craft) to realize most authors tend to put a lot of thought in what their characters say and do. From the big decisions like not speaking for an entire school year (hopefully you all know what book that’s from) all the way down to the small things like why they avoid a certain chair in the living room (what about that one? Not as obvious. Hint: Sara Zarr.) or why they can no longer sleep with the blinds open (not from any book I can think of, though I’m sure there’s one).

People act and react based on the experiences they’ve had. Your characters should do the same. It’s simply WHO they are. Think about this when writing. Before your character moves or speaks, think to yourself Why is he/she doing or saying this? If you can come up with a reason other than “I can’t think of anything else for him/her to say or do, then you’re probably safe to include it. If you’re adding it just to have your character do something, well then think again. Unless you you’re aiming for flat characters.

And that would be like kissing someone with a cold sore knowing you’re going to GET a COLD SORE.

For more on character development, you may also like:

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