Hi all! So it’s been awhile since I’ve done a helpful writing post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been super hectic with getting my latest book ready for release that I have had NO time! But, I’m back today to have some fun talking about my favorite thing about writing: characters!!
What’s a good book without great characters, right? They drive the story and make it interesting, therefore it’s SO important to get them right. As in, NO MARY-SUES! Please, people, no one wants another Bella Swan. We want more Elizabeth Bennets and Catherine Earnshaws and Emma Woodhouses! We crave manly men like Heathcliff and arrogant ones like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester! Yes, no more Mr. Perfects, please, I’ll take the bad boys with checkered pasts and the spunky temperamental crazy girls any day!
But just how does a writer go about creating a memorable character? One that will stick with a reader for years to come, holding their hand like an old friend as they continue on with life, never really quite the same after having “met” them? Well, perhaps there’s no concrete formula for this, but I will say that the first thing a writer needs to do is get a really good grasp on human nature. If we’re going to write about people, then we should probably have a pretty good idea on how people operate, right?
So how does one go about doing this? Well, most of it is already ingrained in us, we just need to pay attention. Think about it. We interact with people every day. We watch people on television, we read about them in newspapers, we talk to them at the grocery store. We are inherently social creatures, and in addition to that, we are all also very unique in the way we react to situations. Everyone has their own special way of laughing, of speaking, of smiling. Every woman has her own way of crying, her own way of getting angry and her own way of falling in love. Each man out there has his own way of expressing his frustration, voicing his opinion, or succumbing to his desires. Our differences are what make all of us special, so as writers it is so important that we spend time fleshing out our characters and really focusing on what it is that makes them different from everyone else out there.
What little quirk does your heroine have that has the hero stumbling over his feet to kneel before her? Is it her dimpled smile? Is it her ability to listen quietly to his needs and quote poetry to ease his stress? Or maybe it’s her sharp tongue and wit that always catches him off guard, just when he thinks he has the upper hand?
No matter what it is, make sure you think long and hard about the traits you want your character to possess. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t make them all good qualities! Because for every good trait we possess, there is a bad trait to accompany it 😉 And, in my opinion, the bad traits are the ones that make us human, the ones that make us real. And don’t you want your characters to be real, too?
If you’re still having trouble organizing traits for your character and keeping them straight, then let me make a very helpful suggestion to you: go buy an astrology book, and make it your new best friend. If you don’t know where to start, let me recommend one to you: Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.
Some of you may scoff at it, but if you do then you are seriously missing out on an depth analysis of different personalities. Put aside your disbelief in it, and instead comb through the different signs and read about each personality. It will teach you A LOT, just trust me! By utilizing this widely available and extremely helpful tool, you will be able to create believable characters that have both good traits and flaws, and that are consistent. Consistent is a BIG word with me, as I am a Virgo and consistency is a huge thing for us. You see, you can’t have your hero be both the shy boy next door, and yet he always knows the exact right thing to say to comfort or woo your heroine. NO! A shy boy next door is also probably going to be bad with words, and he’ll probably always say the wrong thing because he’s socially awkward. See, doesn’t he sound more interesting already? And best of all, he’s not perfect. No one is, and besides, perfect characters are awfully boring!!
Or how about the oh-so-handsome stranger who swaggers into town outta nowhere and has a fierce temper, only to then suddenly turn around and be the sweetest guy ever as he patiently hangs on every silly word your heroine says? Nah, I doubt he exists in real life, sorry. It would be much more realistic for him to be arrogantly demeaning in the beginning, only to have the heroine slowly teach him to soften up a bit, but he still needs to retain his inner nature. He’s probably an Aries, and Aries men don’t change for NOBODY 😉 But, he may warm up to a girl who’s caught his eye, and show her lots of affection which will be plenty sweet, but don’t expect him to lose his selfish nature or his arrogant pride. He’ll hang on to those qualities till his dying day. And hey, that’s what makes him interesting, don’t you think? I do 🙂
To give you a brief summary, I’m going to sum up some pros and cons of each of the twelve signs, just so you can see how vastly different they all are and you can get excited about which one to choose and then explore in even more depth:
ARIES: Bossy, arrogant, selfish and extremely stubborn. But also energetic, spunky, cheerful, and the life of any party.
TAURUS: Consistent, down-to-earth, noble and hard-nosed. Homebodies to the core; usually love and connect with nature.
GEMINI: Flighty, whimsical, witty and fun. Two-faced and self-centered; bright and clever. Great speakers and lovers of good conversation.
CANCER: Wildly emotional, hardworking, stingy and very caring. Values stability in life and home more than anything; extremely cautious.
LEO: Proud, temperamental, conceited, romantic, and exceptionally affectionate. These people are born royalty (in their eyes), and they want you to know it!
VIRGO: Practical, smart, often shy and always just a little bit OCD. Loves putting everything in neat little organized piles, alphabetically and by color (lol). Passive-aggressive but very trustworthy.
LIBRA: Social-butterfly, indecisive, airy, and accepting. Values fairness and honor above all else; despises hypocrites!
SCORPIO: Vindictive, sly, poker-faced, passionate, and wildly intelligent. Do not cross these people as you will regret it!
SAGITTARIUS: Fun-loving, easy-going, and forgetful. Spontaneous and enthusiastic about life, yet impulsive and often spread themselves too thin.
CAPRICORN: Introverted, quiet, broody and hardworking. Struggles with depression if not dedicated to a distinct purpose in life.
AQUARIUS: Friendly, inventive, extroverted and emotionally detached. Fiercely independent and unpredictable.
PISCES: Giving, empathetic, shy, and deeply emotional. These people feel every emotion down to their very core, and are usually very spiritual.
So these are obviously the generic traits of each sign, as any good astrology book will go much deeper. But it gives you an idea, and hopefully a jumping off point as far as where to take your own characters. I like to play around with the different signs as a challenge to myself to see if I can accomplish the personality in my writing. Why not give it a shot yourself?
My upcoming book features five of these signs…Capricorn, Scorpio, Leo, Taurus, and Libra…as the main characters. I can say from personal experience that writing the Scorpio was probably the biggest challenge and the most fun. If you want to learn more, check out the short intro trailer below where I showcase her and provide quotes that (I think anyway) sum up her character pretty well! 🙂
Hope this helps you while building your characters! Just know that no one is ever perfect, and that the flaws are what make our characters memorable and enjoyable to readers. So take the extra time to fully plot out your character’s personality and understand who they will be long before you ever start writing. It will show through in your dialogue and in your descriptions of your character if you truly understand them or not, so get to work! 🙂
Thanks for reading guys! Tomorrow I’ll be unveiling two more characters from my upcoming book, so stay tuned! The Capricorn and the Leo are coming out to play…hehe.
“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” -Jane Austen, referring to Emma Woodhouse