Thursday 9 March 2017

How I Write: Know Your Characters

If you’re going to write a story, one of the most important things is to know your characters. If you don’t understand who they are and what motivates them, how can you accurately present them to readers?

When I commence a story, I always begin by writing notes on my principal characters. The depth of these notes depends on the length of the story.

For a short story, a few sentences about their physical appearance and key personality traits will usually suffice. However, for novels and novellas I write three-page character profiles for main characters and half-page ones for secondary figures.

A quick online search will provide you with a wealth of character profile templates. When I first searched, I downloaded several and then combined my preferred elements from each to produce a template that works for me. Page one concentrates on the character’s physical appearance (age, ethnicity, height, hair and eye colour, build, particular features, clothing preferences etc.), while pages two and three look at their history, likes and dislikes, philosophies, and motivations.

Writing down this information will focus your thoughts on the character, and you can refer back to it as you write at times when you want to remember where someone had a tattoo, or when you need to consider how he/she would react in any given situation. This should help you to craft stories with believable protagonists and eliminate any out-of-character behaviour.

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