Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Depth in Streets, Avenues, & Alleyways

Characters can be so much fun to work with. That's my favorite part of writing. I tend to get a flash of an idea for a plot, and where that comes from no one knows. Do-do-do... Usually, immediately after that, an image pops into my head. Sometimes it's detailed, while other times it's not.

I may see hair color or a simple crook at the corner of said character's grin. A scarf may suddenly appear around the character's neck, or I may get the sense of shyness or even a tendency to back away as if he/she is hiding something. Maybe running or avoiding.

There are many ways in which a writer can add depth to a character. I'm going to focus on dressing the character as if he/she is a blank mannequin. We'll leave story, plot and other elements for another post.

  1. Physical Features: this is an avenue that can take all sorts of directions and usually is one of the first to direct a reader as to who the character is. There is so much fun to have here. Take chances with these. We never know the links we can create throughout the story by adding a simple nose ring or maybe blue eyes.
  2. Chosen Physical Appears: basically I'm referring to a character's fashion sense. Each of us has individuality when it comes to our choice of attire. Think carefully about putting those combat boots on the debutante girl and why she'd wear them. Is she trying to tick off her parents. Or maybe she's involved in some secret society. Either way, risk it but have a reason.
  3. Background: this is the simple one, yet hard all in the same thought. We can do anything with our character's pasts as long as it leads the reader to the beginning of THIS story, the one you're writing right now. Some information you dream up might be the most fantastical and interesting elements to a character, yet it does not fit or add to the story. It does not move the story forward. Leave it out, but make sure you save it for another story. You never know when it might come in handy.
  4. Likes and Dislikes: just like each of us, our characters need to enjoy and/or avoid aspects of their world, whether you've created a new world or not. Give them a dislike that's challenging and bounces of their world, making it harder for them to move forward. 
  5. Emotional Baggage: I HEART this part of deepening a character and could write a series about it! You can take the psyche of a character and intertwine it within the plot, subplots, interactions with secondary characters, their world, and all four of the above elements. The choices you make here to deepen the character will have a profound affect on the entire story. Emotions move, motivate, and inspire plot.
How do you imagine your characters? Does it come in a flash? Do you outline their characteristics or do a character interview?


  1. I keep a notebook(s) to keep track of my characters, and I keep the latest version of the one dedicated to what I'm working on with me all the time--in case something comes up. And it always does. Sometimes its just a description, sometimes its an entire scene, and sometimes its actual images and objects that I stumble across--those I'll just paste in :)

  2. I do the same thing. Plus I make Character collages. It sounds weird, but having the character pages, with pictures and key words on them, spread out on the floor as I write or edit, really helps me bring the characters to life. For the smaller details and background information, each character has a file for those too.

  3. When Nikki and I were writing together, it was critical that we each have the SAME EXACT IDEA of our characters. So, we made collages of sorts - we had pics of what the characters looked like, we "shopped" for them so we knew what sorts of things they would wear. We knew their favorite drinks, least favorite foods, emotional baggage, hobbies, etc. It was a great starting point for the novel and helped make each character unique.


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