5 Ways to Create a Better Character – The Non Obvious Way

IMG_2772One of the most difficult things in writing is building a character. Especially one that is able to encourage readers to experience every emotion you intended to evoke. Everyone will tell you the basics: Give them a personality, obsessions, vices, ideals, passions. Yet no one will really explain how to bring these traits seamlessly to life.

Here are 5 suggestions on how to unify all of the elements you put into a character seamlessly:

1-Base them upon someone you know… Lavishly:

The first step for those who cannot tie a character together is to create their essence. Base the character upon someone you know, or a combination of people… with some artistic liberty. Although this may seem easy, we have to remember that we are telling a story. Unless you are friends with the Dos Equis man, it is safe to say your companions are probably quite normal. A great character cannot be normal. Their flaws must be hidden, their obsessions must be exaggerated.

2-Create your ideal self:

   If you lack the observational skills, or social interactions to effectively base a character on people that you know; your best bet is to make the protagonist  yourself. Let me rephrase that: Make the protagonist your ideal self. Make sure your character does not react in the way that you normally would, but in the way that you wish you could. Embellish your morals, fears, and passions. Make them a constant fuel for your character and it will come to life.

3-Normal, yet divine:

You must maintain your characters equilibrium between reality and tale. It is important to spark the readers intrigue in the character, giving them aspects a normal human would not have. In this, it is also important to emphasize just how human the character is. Without this, the reader will not be able to connect on a personal level to your creation. Your character must be a celebrity: Human enough to connect with, yet far enough from reach to spark intrigue.

4-Contradict personality with actions:

This has to be my favourite tool. Though your characters personality must be vital, making the story and their actions contradict their traits leaves a spot of mystery for the reader to wonder. The best example of this is from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). When Willy first appears from the factory limping with a cane, everyone goes silent. They are taken aback by the normality of this fabled man. His cane then gets stuck and he proceeds to fall, roll, then spring youthfully onto his feet to the applause of the crowd. Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka) refused to do the movie unless this scene was added. His reasoning? “Because from that point on, no one will know if I am lying or telling the truth.” This use of the characters actions is vital to keep the reader guessing, but remember not to overdue it, which will disconnect your reader.

5-Finally, allow the character to grow. For better or worse:

I know most people who write have an immoveable ideal of their character rooted in their imagination. It is important that we take this ideal and crush it. We do not go day to day thinking the same or acting the same, neither should your character. It is important for the events of the book to change the characters personality in little, yet significant ways. This could effect the readers view of them, how they deal with the climax of the plot, or even how they react towards other characters in the book. I know this is a somewhat obvious tip, but I see far too many people who ignore it because they have already created their never changing protagonist in their mind, and are stone set on their creation.

Happy arting,

Isaac Olajos

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131 thoughts on “5 Ways to Create a Better Character – The Non Obvious Way

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