Glad you all are here to read the second instalment in my character building series. In this post, I’ll explain how in addition to the interview, you can use little things to make your characters more rounded such as a flaw in their personality, their favorite song.
First of all, especially for your protagonist and the supporting characters with larger parts you need to make a list of 10 things they would hate to have happen to them. If you’re stuck, if your story seems to be moving at a slow pace, change it up and stick your character into one of those situations. Using Clarice Starling as an example, one of the things she’s most afraid of is being taken off the case she working which happens to her in Silence of the Lambs.
Second, when building your antagonist, you need to know all of this about them as well. It is also helpful to ask why. Why is he the antagonist? What made him this way? Chances are none of this will be written in your novel or story but it makes your character seem fuller, more realistic than a flat antagonist. Take Hannibal Lecter, his past was known to Harris by the time he wrote Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal and the small ways his background seeps into the stories makes Hannibal Lecter come alive. Also, it helps if your antagonist is in some way a reflection of your protagonist. Look at the dichotomy in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Clarice are both students of psychology but one took the lawful path and one the darker path.
I know I seem to be talking about Hannibal Lecter and his series a lot in this post, and that is because I have found myself re-reading the series as I work on building my own characters.
Third, doing research: is it really necessary when it comes to creating characters? My view is that yes, it is. Say you’re a young college woman writing about an elementary school boy as your main protagonist. Do you remember what elementary school was like? Well I do, but I can tell you that it has changed so much from the 90s when I was there. What was the popular cartoon when I was a kid? I think it was Pokemon? But I don’t remember. Ask me what today’s kids want and I don’t know. This is even more important if you’re writing about something like the 1960s or the 1800s. There is so much that would go into creating an accurate character and especially if you are writing about a character of a different demographic or ethnic group. While all people have commonalities the way that a Hispanic household and a German household function are different. Adding little details can take your characters from great to realistic.
Fourth, when creating a character it is important to consider their name and the rest of them. You would question how someone with the surname Garcia was from Germany right? Sometimes you can play with these things to defy your readers expectations, but if you don’t explain these things it could make it hard for your character to come across as believable.
Finally, I find it helpful after interviewing my character, researching them, asking them what is their worst fear, etc. to cast someone in their role. It can help you to view a character so that you can describe them and add those little details that make a story rich and memorable.
If you want to find out more about character building I’d suggest you read A Writers Guide to Characterization by Victorua Lynn Schmitt, Character, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. Both books are in my library of reference material and they help enormously.
Well, that’s all I have for this week. Happy Writing! Don’t forget to comment and share if you find this helpful!