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How to Dissect Your Characters for Stunning Stories: 101

How you doing, Write Lifers!?!

I’m sure you’re wondering what I’ve been up to. I finished my first book! I’m submitting to agents as I write this, but I would really like to get back to posting on here regularly.

For November, I’m working on a characterization series. Something that really impeded me while writing my novel was not understanding or knowing my characters well enough. I wasn’t my character’s creepy stalker after all.

Now what I am about to introduce is something that I hope helps you think critically about your characters. As I stated before, a character is a person, and you want to make them as authentic as possible. But there are a lot of character sheets out there, and some of them are incredibly long. As I stated in my previous post, I use them as a guideline, but what I have developed for my characters comes from meditation on the essence of “character.”

I’m looking to write four posts on what I have decided to be the best things to know about your character, and it isn’t a 100 question survey. 

I have eight concepts for you, as a writer, to flesh out on your own. It will give you the foundation for your character and their arc through your story.

I do not consider myself an expert or a guru, and I welcome all criticism on the post that I am writing. I also welcome any ideas you have on developing your characters because I love hearing your thoughts.

Please leave your opinions in the comments. I look forward to reading them.

Now because I have devoted a lot of words to this introduction, I am going to recommend you start with these EASY concepts first in developing your characters:

What is their physical description?

Simply create an image of your character. If you can draw, go for it! 

What do they wear? What is their race? Are their clothes new or old? Do they have any scars, tattoos, piercings, any distinguishable qualities that set them apart? Are they tall, short, round, or skinny? 

These questions are somewhat easy to answer. Most of us have an idea of what our characters look like, but most of us don’t think about how these features affect our character’s perception of themself.

How does the character views themself?

Most people are insecure about something. Usually, it is physical something that we can either control or can’t control. Maybe it was something in their past that made them ashamed or proud. We’ll talk about history in another post.

 Is your character confident? Do they see themselves as better than everyone else or the worst person on earth? Maybe they don’t think about their place in the world and are just rash Anime protagonists. 

How the character views themselves determines what type of actions they will take throughout your story. Some characters will remain in the background, and your main character must be front and center and be interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention. 

And because your main character is front and center, they will be more susceptible to the ire and ridicule of other characters.

How do other characters view the character?

Ire and ridicule may not be how other characters react to your MC, but knowing how others view them will help establish the world and struggles your MC, and other characters deal with in the story.

How does your main antagonist feel about your characters, and why? If there is hate, there has to be a reason, even if the cause is flimsy. Maybe your other characters find your MC annoying or stupid. What makes them see the MC like that? Why have they arrived at the conclusion they have come to?

Don’t worry. A lot of this is fleshed out in plot and setting. If you can’t answer these now, there is always time. Do not be in a rush to know everything before you begin typing. Many of the answers will come to you while you are amidst the action of the story.

What are their likes and dislikes?

I know this sounds childish, but these concepts really shape how most people live their lives. People and characters seek to avoid the things they dislike and move towards the things they like. 

As I’ve mentioned before, the meat of the story is the character’s realisation of what they want or not. Will they succeed, or won’t they? It doesn’t need to be a long list or even an equal list, and it just needs to mesh with the setting and the story. If the characters favorite food doesn’t really matter, then it doesn’t matter. However, any fan likes to know the mundane stuff.

I want you to understand that these are some simple, foundational ideas that will help you familiarize yourself with your characters. When you’re feeling writer’s block set upon you, review these questions. Add to them. Come up with whatever you need to overcome the obstacle in finishing your chapter or book.

I hope this was helpful. Please like and subscribe so you can read the next couple of posts that will pertain to this topic. And also, comment your ideas on characterization and tips you have in learning who your characters are.

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