How To Get To Know Your Characters

By on July 30, 2016
How To Get To Know Your Characters - Writer's Life.org

A great book needs to have amazing characters.

No matter how fantastic a story is, without characters that we can fall in love with or love to hate, the book simply won’t do well.

Similarly, fantastic characters can often make up for a plot that perhaps lacks in substance at points here and there. So it is paramount that when you are writing you pay particular attention to crafting your characters and creating dynamic, interesting, believable ones that your readers can fully engage with.

To write great characters, you need to get to know them. Only when fully know and understand your characters will you be able to write them in a believable and exciting way.

Getting to know your characters involves more than just creating a profile for them. You need to understand them, get inside their heads and allow them to get into yours.

But how do you do this? Here are some tips to help you get to know your characters better.

Listen to them

You need to allow your characters to talk to you. It’s likely that you’ll have an idea of the main characters in your novel before you begin.

Conjure the image of them in your head; you need to allow them to grow. Don’t sensor your characters, give them complete freedom of speech and movement and see where they take you.

At the early stages it is important to gather ideas, don’t try to be in control, don’t overthink or edit yourself, let ideas come to you, make notes and wait as your characters begin to emerge.

Name your characters

It can be hard to get to know your characters until you know their names. Don’t be afraid to name your characters - you can always go back and change them at a later date.

Finding a great name for a character can be really satisfying, and their chosen name will no doubt help to shape their personality too.

3. Do a casting

Sometimes it can be helpful to cast real life actors as your characters to try and visualise them better in your head. Of course, we don’t mean actually hold a casting, but rather simply think about which famous actor would play your character in a movie of their life.

Doing this can help you focus on what they look like and their mannerisms so you can picture and talk to them more easily in your imagination.

4. Connect the dots

Once you know your characters names, what they look like and their purpose in your story, try to connect the dots. You need to give them history. Their history may never be revealed in your book, but for you to write them believably, you need to know their backstory. You need to understand the reasons why they act and behave in the way that they do.

5. Placement

Once you have gotten to know your characters you need to be able to place them in your story. Make sure that they have a purpose. Be ruthless.

Even if you are attached to a character, if they are not working out you need to get rid of them. You can always put them aside and use them for another story at a future date, but if they aren’t right for your book, they’ve got to go!

Crafting your characters and getting to know them takes time, practice and patience, but having a book full of brilliant, layered, interesting characters is what will make your readers sit up and take notice, so make sure you spend time making them the best they can be.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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