Characters make your story. They can make your reader feel strong emotions toward them like empathy or hate. They can move your story along Your Characters should be the most memorable part of your story. If given a moment I am sure that you the reader of this blog can name your favorite character(s) off of the top of your head. To name a few Mr. Darcy, Cyrano D’Bergerac, Little Red Riding Hood, Harry Potter, Jean Val Jean, Captain Hook, and Beowolf. All of those came to mind all at once. Characters can make or break your story. If not done right, they will fail, and become forgettable. The reader will lose interest. It is important to develop your characters, make them interesting, and hook your reader.
So where do you start? First things first, just like you would on your online dating site or Facebook account, make them a profile.
An effective character profile includes their Name, Biography, age, height, weight, body type, face type, career, complexion, eye color, hair color, their fashion sense, speaking style, demeanor, weakness, strengths, hobbies, talents, and best qualities. Keep in mind, you need to make your character(s) interesting in order to catch the reader’s attention. Much like a dating profile, beef it up and make your character intriguing. Having this information at your fingertips helps your story move along.
Name: Add your character’s full name including first name, middle name, last name, and any nicknames they may go by. It’s good to have this information to look at while writing so you keep your character’s name consistent. You want to make sure the name of the character fits with their personality. For example the reader will have different expectations for characters named Jim Bob or Billie Sue than they will for a character named Vladimir or Rolando. Make sure the name fits the personality.
Biography: Your character needs a description. What is their life like? What is their past and their present? How does it affect them in their current life? Where were they born and what is their family life-like? What do they do now? Describe their friends and their place of residence. Write a concise paragraph about your character that you can refer back to as you write about their life.
Age: How old are they? This can affect their personality greatly. Are they young with little experience, are they middle-aged with some experience, or are they older and a master of their craft or a failure at life?
Height: So how tall is your character? This can affect their personality greatly. Are they short with a complex? Are they tall with issues of hitting things with their head? Are they average height? It is important to mention this.
Weight: Approximate their weight. NO one really cares their exact weight but it is important to mention whether your character is thin, average, or husky. Remember Jabba the Hutt? The description for this character is rather important. With a name like that, no one would expect a thin guy hanging out on a dias.
Body Type: What does your character’s body look like? Does he/she work out? Do they sit around all day and eat chips? Are they big-boned, small boned,muscular, or wiry?
Face Type: What does their face look like? Are they clean-shaven, or bearded. Do they have rounded cheeks, and almond-shaped eyes? Do they have defined cheekbones or a large nose? These are important questions to answer when building your characters.
Complexion: What does your character’s skin look like? Have they lived in the sun most of their life so their skin is bronzed or leathery? Are they ghostly white from years of living in a cave without light? Do they have dark skin, light skin, green skin? Some characters are defined by their skin color. For example, Elphaba Thropp from the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, she is known for the green hue in her skin. She is the character everyone thinks of if the term Wicked Witch is bantered about. Green skin, long nose, black clothes. If you have seen the movie Wizard of Oz, or seen the musical Wicked you know her by these characteristics. She is a fine example of how a skin color can change a character and how they see and are seen in the world.
Eye Color: Describing the eyes of your character is very important. Eyes can be the window to the soul. Do their eyes twitch, are they a special color like violet or ice blue? Do their eyes laugh with them, or are they cold and hard without emotion. A character that is well-known within literature and is integral in our holiday festivities is Santa Clause. He is described as having twinkling eyes. His eyes show how jolly and good he can be, whereas if he was described as having cold hard blue eyes reflecting no emotion, he would be a completely different character.
Hair: Does your character have beautiful long tresses streaming down their back? Is he or she bald or balding? Is their hair curly, straight, spiked, or dreaded? Think of the color and the length. Hair is very important to a character. Dumbledore the wizard in Harry Potter would be a completely different character without his iconic long white beard and hair, same thing with Gandolf from Lord of the Rings. We see their type as older wiser and with longer whiter/Gray Hair.
Fashion: What is your character’s style? Do they like jeans and a t-shirt? Do they wear robes or leather? What the character wears should be congruent with who he/she is. A fighter is usually seen in leather or mail, a wizard wears robes, a queen would normally be seen in royal attire, and a peasant would normally wear earth tones and sometimes rags Of course it is your story and you can do whatever you want with your character’s fashion sense, but you must make it make sense to the reader.
Speaking: So how does your character speak? Are they eloquent? Do they talk fast or slow? Is there an accent or speech impediment? What does their voice sound like? Do they speak softly, or do they have a booming voice? Is their tone rich, deep, and/or smooth, or high-pitched and squeaky?
Demeanor: So how does your character act, and how do the other characters in the story see him or her? Is your character uptight or easy-going? Are they always ready to fight, or are they always trying to make peace. Are they generally nice to others or do they enjoy being rude?
Career: This is important, what do they do for money in order to live in their world? If you do not know, look up possible occupations for your character and see what best fits their personality and what occupations may exist within their world.
Prejudice: What do they dislike? Do they have pet-peeves? Is there a group or groups of people who your character dislikes? A good example of this is a character is a story hating all trolls simply because they are trolls. Perhaps not all trolls in the story are bad and your character has to grudgingly accept that.
Best and Worst Qualities: List as least three to four best and worst qualities of your character. Think about their faults and what they are good at.
Weaknesses: What is your characters greatest weakness or Achilles’s heel? Perhaps your character is not the sharpest tack in the box or perhaps they have a social complex? Afraid of heights or even small animals? Make it interesting!
Hobbies: Does your character like underwater basket weaving, or how about stamp collecting? Again make your character interesting.
Talents: Does your character have any special talents like singing, dancing, or drawing? Again this special talent can help your character stand out among the crowd.
These are all ideas that you can use to help develop your characters for your story. Making sure to write everything down is important so you can refer back to your character if you begin to feel as though they have lost their way. Remember to make your character interesting and engaging so your audience will be hooked from the beginning.
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