Characters are the stars of our stories. For some of us, they form with fully-fledged personalities in our first drafts—we know the way they look, dress, eat, sleep, and dream. At other times, a character seems to be flat, stereotypical, cold—refusing to come alive for the author.
Here are two short steps you may want to try to make your characters spark again.
- Give your character one of your physical traits. If you’re writing a romance, maybe your heroine shares the same eye colour or facial features. If you’re writing a thriller, perhaps your villain has the same dislike of his hands or legs that you harbour. It can be a positive or negative body trait—it is there simply to help you connect with your character on a deeply personal level. You are forced to invest your own life in a fictional creation.
- Give your character one personal trait you don’t possess. If you’re the most impatient person at work, make your detective the most persevering and tolerant person imaginable. Perhaps you have never been interested in cooking—make the mother in your family saga an aspiring Nigella Lawson. By creating opposites, you are forced to test your character’s reactions and authenticity.
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These tips apply even if your story is not autobiographical. If you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, you can still tweak them to apply. Perhaps your alien shares your fear of giving birth, or your grand wizard possesses the analytical abilities you don’t. As a rule, ask yourself: ‘If I could give my character something of me – what would it be?’