Anyhow, if you’re a fiction writer, I hope you find the below useful as you focus on character development. And if you’d like to read more interesting writing tips, you can always visit the Radish blog: http://blog.radishfiction.com/post/144269843664/guest-blog-post-from-salina-jivani-how-to-fall
It’s a word that wields such power and yet it’s one that’s tossed around so lightly. You say “I love you” to your parents, spouse, kids, friends and, heck, even your Chihuahua who doesn’t understand “roll over” from “sit down.”
And when it comes to writing a main character, love is oh, so important. You have to love your main characters, no matter how flawed or imperfect they may be. Because if you don’t love them, like truly, really love them, they will feel it—and so will your readers. And really, if you yourself can’t muster love for your main characters, how can you expect your readers to?
So how do you generate this love? This overpowering magnetism toward this person who is the heart and soul of your book?
Good question. Let’s get started.
1. Envision them as a real person
Remember Aunt Bertha? The ancient-looking lady who was related to you from your maternal side? Funky hats, outdated knee-length dresses, mismatched shoes, peach-fuzz mustache? And she always smelled like mothballs? She was a real person, right?
Well same goes for your main character; they have to be real! Think about what this character’s purpose is, what they are trying to accomplish in the story. If your book were to become a movie and you had to choose a real, live person to play your character, who would you choose? Describe the characteristics and attributes of that person. Once you have that, you have what I call the “skeleton” of your character—then you can start making tweaks.
For example, maybe you don’t want your imaginary Aunt Bertha to have excessive facial hair or a poor memory. Perhaps she needs to be portrayed as a strong, independent elderly woman in your novel and so you need to make small changes to make sure that your readers see her as just that. Basing the “skeleton” of your character off a real person is a starting point for character development and can help get your creative juices flowing in the right direction.
2. Get in their head
Do you know your best friend inside and out? Like they’ll open their mouth to say something and you already know what they’re going to say before they even begin?
Well that’s how you have to know your character. Once you are able to envision them as a person, get in their head, understand their personality, think about how their past has shaped them.
What would they do in various circumstances?
Are they outgoing, shy, intelligent, vengeful, silly? And then, once you know what they’d be like in a social setting, sit down and get to know them.
Like know them know them.
3. Talk to them.
No, I don’t mean sit down and talk to thin air.
We wouldn’t want anyone thinking you’ve lost your senses (however, if thin air works for you…)! But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make conversation with your character in the sanctity of your mind.
Think about your day. What aspects of it would you discuss with your spouse or a good friend? Have that conversation with your main character and see how they respond. Do this a couple of times.
What are their facial expressions? What idiosyncrasies do they have? Once you have a better understanding of them, their dialogue and reactions will flow so much faster on paper when they are thrust amidst other characters and left to deal with situations on their own.
4. Make them a friend.
Let’s go back to old Aunt Bertha.
Yeah she smelled strange and left her dentures in random containers and Tupperware all around your parents’ kitchen during family gatherings (and sure there was that time they fell out of her mouth and into the fish tank opening, trapping and killing poor Goldie), but what made her likeable?
Was it the way she pulled you to her ample bosom in a warm love-packed hug? The way she made your favorite dishes from scratch for every special occasion? The way she was always the first to wish you happy birthday? Or how she mailed you cards that somehow always made it to your mailbox on the day of your birthday?
Sprinkling little tidbits of likeability into your main character will help them win your audience. These traits don’t have to be blatantly stated, loud or magnanimous to be effective in garnering that much-needed love. Even hints of affability, like their timid nature, subtle mannerisms, or chivalry, will go a long way in shaping their persona in the minds of readers, making them root-worthy characters who you can proudly flaunt—and yes, even love.
Cheers to great writing,