Let’s Talk Characters

Hey guys, this is Elizabeth. This post is by my new contributor, Katie. I’m super excited to have her on the Written Path team! I am looking for one or two more people to contribute once a week, or every two weeks. If you’re interested, please contact me through the guest post page. And without further ado, here’s Katie!
Hi everybody! I’m Katie. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a teen writer. I’ve wanted to be published ever since my first-grade teacher read my class a picture book written by a ten-year-old. Naive little me was shocked at the idea that a kid could write a book. My thought was, hey, I want to do that! So here I am, all these years later. I usually write fantasy/speculative fiction, and I’m about halfway through the first draft of my novel, Tempest. Aside from writing, I like hanging out with my friends and watching TV shows on Netflix. I’ve been a reader for a long time too. I love the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, almost anything by Gail Carson Levine, the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, etc. I love dogs (I have a golden retriever), chai tea, comfortable clothes, words, and rainy days. I’m very excited to be blogging here with Elizabeth, and hopefully I’ll get to talk to you all soon!

So let’s discuss characters. Characters are huge. Think about your favorite books and stories. What about them comes into your mind first? What did you like about them? Think about what makes you like or dislike a book. Did it have something to do with the characters? A lot of times, the answer is yes. As a writer, you have to consider the impact of characters on your readers. So how do you create a realistic character your readers will like? Here are a few ideas:

1. Talk it out. I’ve found that, when creating and developing characters for the first time, it helps a ton to work aloud. You could do this alone, or, as I’ve done, you could ask a writing friend, a non-writing friend, a sibling, or someone else willing to help to talk about your character with you. Bounce ideas off of them. Ask them questions. If you have online writing friends, do it over email.
My writing friend (who I know in real life) and I usually talk through a character worksheet (see number two for that). It’s nice because when there are two of you, you can “check” each other, so to speak. One person might suggest something about a character, but the other might not think it fits that character’s personality. You get a stronger character because of it. My friend and I were co-writing something when we did this, so the character “belonged” to both of us. But even for something you’re writing independently, you can try talking aloud about the character to someone else, to reason things out, ask questions to a potential reader, and make sure the character sounds realistic.

2. Use your resources. There are lots of great character-building tools out there. Take advantage of them. I recommend the worksheet mentioned on this page (hit “click here” to access it) from Go Teen Writers’ Jill Williamson (this is the one my friend and I use). This page has links to websites where you can take the Myers-Briggs personality test for your characters, as well as articles with details on the different personalities. Also, try actively listening to people around you. Compare the ways they speak. See if you can identify a word or phrase they use often, or if they pronounce a certain word differently. Infuse your characters with different, real-life voices.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words. I like to find pictures of people who look generally like what I think the character looks like. Pinterest is a great place to look. You could also try photography websites or Google images. Then, when you’re writing about that character or from their point of view, get out the picture and have it near you. Imagine the person in the picture speaking and doing the things their character does in the story. Get to know the person that is your character.

So there you have it. What about you? Are there any character-building resources you use? Do you have pictures of your characters? Do you think you’ll try any of these ideas? I hope they gave you some new techniques to consider, and that they will help as you create amazing characters!

~Katie

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