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Monday, 17 June 2013

My Secret to giving Character to my Characters

Co-create the Character with your Reader

One mistake I believe writers make when they are creating a character is they tell you everything you need to know about the character.  But that isn't the way we meet people and get to know people, and it is NOT the way we ignite the imagination.

In fact, the closest we get to a character description in real life is a friend telling us about a person before we meet them.  Instead, most of us pride ourselves on not jumping to conclusions about people before we meet them.  

We wait until at least we see their tattoos, eyebrow piercing and the scar running down their snarl before knowing they are exactly the type of person our parents will reject, and therefore the perfect life partner.

(On a side note, what a character says about another character tells us just as much about the character talking, as it does the character he/she is talking about.)

A more effective way in your writing is to lead the reader to judge a character for themselves through their actions or in clues, like appearance.  That way a more authentic and deeper bond is fostered between the reader and character as it is THEIR judgement, not you telling them.

A word of warning here, do not describe the character's appearance in too much detail either.  (I sometimes do a little too much, but I know that I really shouldn't!)

As with letting the reader co-create the persona of our characters, let the reader fill in the details of a character's appearance.  Ignite the reader's own imagination by picking a few 'touchpoints' that infer the personality or status or background etc., and that can be employed later to reintroduce the character throughout the book.

The retired general with one squinting eye and a giant mole with luscious hair cascading from it as if it were a separate living entity, will connect better with a reader than a shopping list of wardrobe pieces and a police profile description.

WHAM! BAM! POW! ... Bonus Tip for COMICS!

When you are creating characters for comics, you can use these same 'touchpoints' in your drawings too.  Below are some ideas I have had for the new comic I am working on 'Paint the Town Red'.

You can see how a character's head shape, eyes and accessories, for example, help the reader know straight away which character is which.  Beside the first three I have included some original conceptuals of the character before I 'cartoonised' them.

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