Monday, January 6, 2014

What Does Your Reader Know About Your Character? Probably not as much as you do.

I frequently find myself passing on projects due to a lack of depth in character development. When I see this, what I am often referring to are characters that tend to be two dimensional and lack that sense of "realness." Surprisingly, this is a weakness many authors have when writing and the issues stems from one fact. You, as the author, know that character so well that you tend to take many things for granted.

When I teach writing, I often stress the idea of assuming your reader is stupid. They have never been there before, they have never seen or heard the things you are talking about, and therefore, are walking in blind. It is your job to really bring them into the picture. When it comes to characters in your writing, this is especially important considering it is these people guiding us on the great plot you have developed.

Knowing your characters, however, takes a lot more than just giving us their GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict), or giving us their physical description, or even knowing their backstory. We have to know what makes them tick. All of those little nuances and quirks need to be there. These don't have to be major players in the story, but the presence alone is crucial for bringing your character to life.

For example, how would your heroine act or behave when she is thinking or is worried? I know my wife is one of those people who will start to twirl that strand of hair on the right side of her face. It would be those small habits that we need to see popping up whenever similar situations show up in the book.

As you develop your characters, think about real people. How do real people behave in similar situations. Add these elements into the story. Along the same lines, think about how they would say things. Think about tone and volume. These too show a depth of character.

Remember, depth of character is not simply providing more backstory. It is providing a three dimensional character for us to live with during the course of your book!

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