Know Your Characters

Just like an old friend, it’s important to actually know your characters. What are their ages? What kind of job do they do? If they are still in school, what are their favorite and least liked subjects? Do they have any silly or weird quirks? Are they nervous, laid back, full of energy, talkative, quiet, and the list goes on.

Every one of your characters should have something unique about them that sets them apart from the other characters. Even their hair makes a difference. Is it long, short, pulled back or un-kept? Is it brown, red, white or starting to gray?

Do they wear glasses that they keep taking off and putting back on as though they don’t know what to do with them? Are they always losing their glasses, or chewing on the end nervously.

Even if your character only has a small part in your story, it’s a lot more fun for you and your readers to give each one their own individuality about them.

I have some characters I developed a few years ago and one of them really had me perplexed. I knew her name, and what she was going to do in my story. But I didn’t know her. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to have her come across to my readers.

One day, while my husband and I were walking along the path at the Grand Canyon, there was a woman who had very curly long red hair that seemed to spring out in every direction. Suddenly, she shrieked out in the most obnoxious voice that would crimp anybody’s toenails. “YOO-HOO! KIDS! COME ON NOW…IT’S TIME TO EAT!” Then she proceeded to unload their lunch onto a nearby picnic table out of a large bag she had been carrying by its handle. “COME ON KIDS…LET’S GO!”

The whole scene almost made me laugh out loud and at the same time, put my hands over my ears for protection from the ear-splitting barrage of demands she was producing. She was perfect for my character.

I changed the look of my character and gave her long curly red hair and the loud obnoxious personality which that mother had. I even used the giant purse to enhance her personality. Now, if someone needed a car-jack, or a huge electric fan, or even a ladder, my new character would be able to produce it just by looking into her purse.

I had a couple of my characters fighting with each other, so after my new character did some LOUD hollering to stop the fighting, she finally looked into her purse, and produced a fire extinguisher. She plastered the two combatants with foam to break it up.

Become a “people watcher.” You would be surprised with how many different personalities are out there. Write different characteristics you see in different people and what makes them stand out. Add a little exaggeration with their personality and your characters will leap out of the pages of your story…even the little ones.

So have fun and get to know your characters, because if you don’t know them, how are your readers going to know them?