Creating characters for your novels isn’t necessarily an easy task, but it’s important and it can be fun.
We talked a lot about characters this month. There’s a whole lot more to explore when it comes to characters, but I think we covered a decent amount. I’m sure there will be another month when I discuss characters again. (That means, yes. Yes, there will be another character-orientated month.)
So, I’m asking a simple question today. What’s your favorite part about creating characters?
A lot goes into bringing character to life and making them unique from other characters in your novel and other characters from other novels written by other people.
First, there’s the physical description. How long do you spend trying to decide whether or not your protagonist has brown, blonde, or purple hair? Did they get their green eyes from their mother or father? Or maybe from her great-great-aunt?
What kind of clothes do they wear? Do they always try to look presentable or do they just not care? Make-up? Jewelry?
How tall or short are they? Are they a twig or husky? Do they have a huge nose or teeny-tiny ears?
Then, there’s the personality. Are they self-conscious about that huge nose? Or do they not care what others think about them?
Are they nice to everyone or just their close friends? Are they pleasant to be around? Do they have any normal/weird habits or hobbies? What’s their favorite anything? Food, clothes, color, etc.
Third, you have their background story. What’s their family and home life like? Do they have any friends? A large group or just one best friend?
How did they get to where they are today? What kinds of decisions do they make?
Now here’s the important question: do you like to plan your characters out, like I just did above, or do you like free writing and see where they take you?
I think writing characters is so much fun because you can place them in certain worlds and situations that you can’t normally be part of. Your characters are a little piece of you and you live vicariously through them.
So, what’s your favorite part about creating your characters? Let me know in the comments below!
It’s hard to have a good plot without someone to drive your protagonist forward. Often times, that someone happens to be a “bad guy.”
Someone who is not nice, someone who isn’t your protagonist’s number one fan, someone who wants the spotlight for themselves and goes about it the wrong way. There are a lot of reasons a protagonist becomes a protagonist. Often it’s something bad, but sometimes it’s not.
Who is the antagonist?
The antagonist is a character in your novel. Often times they are the “bad guy,” the person the protagonist is trying to stop, the person the readers don’t root for.
However, you have to remember that the antagonist is just as important to the novel as your protagonist is.
There are many different types of antagonists.
The Power Hungry
There are more types of villains, of course, but those are just a few. You can tell which type of antagonist you’ve created based on their personality, their background, and their motives.
How to create an awesome antagonist
Just like your protagonist, your antagonist should have a story too. Give them a personality, give them a background story. Things that have happened to them in the past may have made them out to be who they are now.
1. Have a motive.
They need to have a motive for why they do what they do. They should be trying to accomplish something for their own benefit, acting on personal desires.
Good motivations can stem from the seven deadly sins, such as greed or envy.
2. Get in the way of the protagonist.
The antagonist’s wants are most often the opposite of the protagonist’s. They may be racing each other, they may be trying to stop each other.
Speaking of envy, some antagonists are jealous of the protagonist and that ends up being a motivation for hate.
3. Be trying to hide something or trying to gain something.
Antagonists should have secrets. They should have a deeper, internal motive for doing what they do.
In turn, they should be trying to gain something. Most antagonists do what they do purely for selfish reasons.
4. Have flaws.
No one is perfect and that includes protagonists and antagonists alike. Some people may believe the antagonist’s motives are their flaw, but there should be character traits that allows the character to stand out, that allows the antagonist to be known as the antagonist.
Antagonists are a character in your story. They should be fleshed out just as much as the other characters in the story.
The only difference is, a villain is someone whose story hasn’t been told.
How do you write antagonists? Do you have any tips to create memorable bad guys? Let me know in the comments below!
Characters are the heart of your story and the protagonist is everything. The protagonist is the one who drives the story forward, who advances and overcomes the plot, who makes your readers fall in love and want more from you and your cast.
But how do you choose the “right” protagonist? How do you decide which character in your mind is capable of playing the lead role and capturing the hearts of your many readers?
Why does your protagonist matter to the story, to the readers, to you?
Who is the protagonist?
The protagonist can be the hero or main character in your story. They’re the one who’s outcome matters most. There would be no story without them.
How do you choose your protagonist?
Do you have your plot laid out? Okay, now let your characters decide.
You can choose a character to be the center of the story, but the cast will ultimately choose themselves. Like I’ve explained many times before, I originally had George the protagonist of my mystery series. And, while he’s still one of the main characters, the female main character took over and decided to be the protagonist instead.
And the story is much better that way, I have to say.
You may not know your characters until halfway through the story, but the protagonist will present him/herself when the time is right. You’ll soon come to realize which character you’ve been favoring over the others and who makes the important decisions around the plot.
What makes an awesome protagonist awesome?
All characters in a story much have unique personalities making the readers love or hate them. They all must have a goal in mind, but your protagonist must be the one that stands out the most, that matters most to the story.
Give your protagonist a strong goal and allow them to be passionate about it. Maybe they want to save the princess (or prince) from the tower because they were childhood friends and/or they want to marry. Maybe they don’t want to save them from the tower, but they have to anyway for certain reasons.
Protagonists are usually tragic in some way or another. Don’t info-dump to your readers about your protagonist’s second birthday party (well… unless something plot-driven happened on that day, but I’m sure you know what I mean).
However, give your readers a good insight to your protagonist’s life. Their childhood, growing up, what matters most to them in life, what doesn’t matter to them at all, etc. This helps develop their personality as well as their goals in life as they strive to be the spotlight of the story.
But, you must let it all happen naturally. They know what they want.
Their relationship with the antagonist
The antagonist is the “bad guy,” so to speak. There wouldn’t be much of a plot if it weren’t for the dynamic between the protagonist and antagonist.
Whatever the antagonist does should drive the protagonist forward (or backward) in some way or another. The antagonist is one of the reasons the protagonist is going on their journey. Maybe they know each other from the past, maybe they will get to know each other when all is said and done. Or, maybe it’s just a random encounter because something else happened.
Either way, allow the protagonist to know what he/she wants and how they want to accomplish those goals.
Speaking of accomplishing goals, your protagonist should be the one making all the heavy decisions. I’m not saying they can’t ask for help, but they’re the ones driving the plot forward.
If something goes wrong, what will your protagonist do? If the antagoinst does something your protagonist did or didn’t expect, what will he/she do? If there’s a fork in the road and they can’t read a map, what will they do?
Allowing your protagonist to make most of the decisions allows your readers to get to know him/her and get inside their head. It makes the readers say, “I would have done that, too,” or, “Why in the world did he decide to do that? That was a stupid, they’re going to get into trouble!”
It becomes known that the protagonist is in charge of the story and they become relatable to the readers as the protagonist takes his own life, and the life of the other characters, into his own hands.
Give your protagonist a goal, something to strive for.
Give your protagonist tragedy
Put all the weight on your protagonist’s shoulders
Allow your protagonist and antagonist to have some sort of relationship
Let your readers connect with the protagonist emotionally
The more you do that, the more your readers will root for the protagonist to win in the end.
How do you create awesome protagonists? What’s your favorite trait of a good protagonist? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that boys and girls are different. We’re different physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I’m a girl and have no idea what goes through the mind of a boy. Boys have no idea what girls go through. We pretend we understand the opposite gender, but we really have no clue.
With that being said, it’s much easier to write in the female point of view if you’re a female yourself.
When I first started writing my mystery series, George Florence, the main protagonist was George himself. It was all in first-person, but some things just weren’t clicking with the rest of the story.
I eventually changed the point of view to third-person with George still in charge, but even that didn’t work out. With the help of my writer’s group, I came to the conclusion that even though George calls the shots for the plot, his colleague, Lilah, wants to tell the story.
I ended up rewriting the whole story, still in third-person, but as Lilah. And it is the best decision I ever made.
Why is it the best decision, though? I think it’s because Lilah’s personality is similar to mine, in certain ways. That, and she’s a girl. I can relate to her more. It’s easier for me to write her thoughts on what’s going on.
That, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that George is a detective and Lilah and I are not…
How to choose which gender your protagonist should be.
It’s easy to choose your own gender because you have that extra knowledge, emotionally, mentally, and physically. But, is it really what’s best for your story?
I chose to write in George’s point of view because I thought that was best for the series. Who wouldn’t want to follow around a fired detective who then decides to become a private investigator in spite of everyone else?
No one, if you can’t get his personality right.
It turned out, gender aside, Lilah is the best fit for my novel because she’s more relatable.
But what if Lilah was the detective and George was the student? George would then be more relatable to myself and everyone else. Then I would have a male protagonist on my hands and how in the world do I write as a 20-something male?
How to write as the opposite gender.
I can’t exactly tell you how to write as the opposite gender, but I can’t tell you how to research the opposite gender. Does that work?
Yeah, let’s skip this one.
How to research the opposite gender.
It’s going to take you a while to write as the opposite gender. It will only get better with practice, but in the end, you’re still a girl, not a boy. Or you’re a boy, not a girl… Either way.
However, you can do the best you can and that’s all anyone really ever asks for.
Read books written in the male point of view if you’re a girl and vice versa. Pay attention to how the author wrote their protagonist. You can learn a lot from seeing what other authors have done, to a certain point.
Talk to people
Ask a family member or friend of the opposite gender about what they would do in a certain situation. Or, just ask them how they felt when they were teenagers, when they first went to college, or any other major life event.
Follow (or don’t follow) stereotypes
When people think of a teenage girl, they think of her standing in front of the mirror for long periods of time checking her hair and fixing her make-up. They’re spending all their money at the mall on new clothes, purses, and the like. Some teenage girls are like that, yes, but not everyone.
For example, I wore jeans every single day, the only day I’ve ever worn make-up in my life was my sister’s wedding, and at the age of 23 I still don’t have a purse. I carry a backpack.
With that said, stereotypes are okay to a point. However, it all depends on one thing.
If your teenage girl doesn’t want to wear make-up when all of your female friends are saying that’s all they cared about, then fine. Your character doesn’t have to wear make-up.
Remember, this is your character. You created him/her. You know what they want and what they don’t want. You know the basic outline of how they think and act.
So, research the opposite gender. It won’t hurt you. In the end, though, just do your best and let your character be him/herself.
How do you write as the opposite gender? Are most of your characters the same gender as you? Let me know in the comments below!
We’re all human, big or small, white or black. We all occupy this earth, we’re all in this together.
So, what would make your novel any different?
A diverse character is a character just like any other. Don’t write them differently because it’s something new. Don’t view them as special because you’ve added them into the story.
Just include them.
Why should you include diverse characters?
We all want to see ourselves in stories. We want to be one with the protagonist, go on an adventure, save the world, and just escape reality for a little while.
It’s important for everyone to feel included. Everyone should be represented, everyone’s voices should be heard.
It also gives people an open mind. They recognize there are others out there who are like them and who are not like them. They feel as though they are not alone.
Don’t be afraid to write these characters. You may offend some people, not intentionally, but remember that people view things differently. Just do your research and do your best.
And, I don’t mean to get political on my blog, but with the way the world is now, we all need to come together and act as one now more than ever.
How do you write a diverse character?
I’ll admit that most of my characters are white, but that’s because that’s what I know. I know the mannerisms, the accents, the culture, and background. So, how am I supposed to write as anyone else?
There are so many resources on the internet. Tumblr is a huge one, as a matter of fact. Tumblr, Pinterest, and even just Googling things give you a tremendous amount of resources at the edge of your fingertips. From various voices and accents to describing skin color and other physical descriptions, various cultures, and religions, and so much more. Just know what you’re looking for and don’t be afraid to search for it.
Talk about it
I’m sure you all have friends that come from different backgrounds than you. Study their mannerisms, ask them about their culture. Don’t be afraid to want to know more, to understand more about them.
You’ve all heard of books, right? Look up books that center a protagonist that’s similar to yours and learn how that author pulled it off. Brush up on your history, as well, depending on what time period you’re writing in.
Remember, it’s one thing to add in diverse characters, but it’s another thing to add them in and actually portray them correctly.
But wait, there’s more!
What is a diverse character, exactly? So far I’ve basically just mentioned skin color and the like. But there are so many other types of people out there.
Diverse characters can include various:
And I’m sure there’s a lot more that I’m missing. (Seriously, if I’m missing anything, let me know and I’ll add it.)
Give your characters, give your novel, variety. The world is a mixing cup and we have to stir it up. (And that, my friends, is from a song we sing in my preschool classroom.)
Do you include diverse characters in your novels? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments below!
Characters are one of the most important aspects of a novel. You can’t have a great story without a great cast of characters.
But what does a character entail? A personality, physical description, motive, likeness, relatability, and so much more.
A lot goes into being a character, but how do you make the type of character that readers wish were real? That readers want to know about, want to be their friends, that never want to forget them?
Think of your character as your best friend.
No, I’m not saying you should base your protagonist off of your real life best friend. Our books are our babies, which means our characters are just one personality trait our books have. We want to make it a good one. And, as our book grows and matures, we want our characters to make a good first impression on our readers.
(That analogy escalated quickly…)
Anyway, when creating a character, you should ask yourself certain questions:
What qualities would I look for in a friend?
What kind of personality would I want to hang around with all the time?
Is this the type of person I would love to be friends with? Or I would love to hate?
Our main goal is to create a likeable protagonist, right? So, I said again, think of your character as your best friend.
You want to go on a journey with this person, you want to hear about their day, know about every detail of their life. Well, maybe not every detail.
Getting to know your character.
There are two ways to get to know your characters: speed dating–plan them out–or take it slow–let them take their life into their own hands.
You can give your character full life and breath before you even begin writing. This is done through interviews and character charts.
Become one with your character and interview them. Ask them about their home life, ask them what they would do in certain situations, ask them what they want to accomplish.
Or, you can fill out a character chart, which is a bit more in-depth. Ask yourself, what’s their hair and eye color? What are their favorite things? Who are they related to? Do they have a job? What about hobbies?
Then, when all that is said and done, ask yourself one more question: Is any of this information needed for the story?
Take it slow
Whether you outline your novels or not, you always have some sort of basic idea of what you want to accomplish in the story, the plot.
Often times, your characters take things a different way. You may begin writing with a certain idea of how you want your character to act and behave, but then they do something out of left field and surprise you.
So, you don’t have to map our your characters. Not completely, anyway. They know what they want.
But what does this mean for your novel, for your readers? You have your character flushed out, sure, but why would your character’s favorite color matter to your readers?
Make the character believable
It seems easy, but it’s actually pretty easy to create flat, bland characters. So, how do you achieve this?
Make them stand out from the crowd.
Give them a unique voice. Give them some special traits and tasks from the rest of the characters. Allow the readers to point the protagonist out and understand that the story is about them.
Give them flaws.
No one is perfect in real life and neither are fictional characters. If you had a protagonist with no weaknesses, then there would be a short, boring story. The conflict would be resolved before it even began.
Give them inner conflict.
The external conflict is the plot, everyone is freaking out about that issue. But, your character has something else going on, inner demons that are bothering him. Show that, let your readers feel that inner conflict. Let your readers understand how your character feels.
Give them realistic emotions.
Show how your character feels. We’ve all experienced life and death, the first day of school and work, opening birthday presents, our car breaking down, love and heartbreak, and everything else in between. Let your readers feel their frustration, their happiness, their sadness.
Allow your characters to have some secrets.
Let your readers try to figure out your characters. Let them wonder what makes them tick. We don’t always know why we do what we do. Maybe your characters know why, maybe they don’t, but let your readers ponder on that.
Allow your characters to grow and develop.
Use your character as a lesson for your readers. What did your character learn through their journey? What’s the moral of the story?
Give your characters room to grow with your readers and allow your readers to really care and enjoy following your characters on their journey.
If your readers love and care about the characters, they’ll keep reading the story.
Who are some of your favorite characters? What do you have in mind when you create characters? Let me know in the comments below!