Creating the Story: Part Two-Characterization

Ah, the characters, probably the most important part of a story. Sure a plot can chug along without decent characterization, events can happen, an ending can occur, but you won’t draw the reader in. In order to have a story that people want to read you must have characters that they become invested in. That they can relate to.

There are many writing sites out there that suggest making up character sheets (you can download and print these it at many websites-just run a search). These nifty little pieces of paper are a good thing to use when you first start out. I suppose many people find them handy throughout their writing career, but my style tends to be a bit more haphazard as I’m sure I’ve already mentioned.

Anyway, these sheets include basic things like the name of your character(s), height, weight, hair and eye colour, birthday, address, parents’ names, job, etc…. In addition, they can also include things like likes and dislikes in music and food, hobbies, political and ideological beliefs, best and worst experiences and how they have affected the person, past relationships…you get the idea.

These individualistic traits are really what you need to focus on, but don’t mention them: show them. Give your character a strange like, a fear that others relate to, an annoying habit, a funny quirk; things that make them seem human and not just two-dimensional constructs. This is what will ultimately draw the reader in and make them feel invested in your characters and, hence, the story.

Now it may seem somewhat of a waste creating this laundry list of traits. When you have a story that you’re burning to write do you really want to halt the creative flow and do something so mundane? My answer is yes because you know what this does? Besides giving you a sort of ‘character blueprint’ to refer back to, it helps prevent that horrible moment when you turn on your computer or open your notebook and nothing comes.

Say, for example, that your heroine is horribly afraid of spiders (I know, simplistic example, but I’m merely trying to make a point so cut me a little slack). You can obviously have a scene where she must confront one or a nest of them. This would lead to the question of how she got into that situation in the first place (another scene or two). If she’s allergic what happens? What if the hero appears, desperately wants to save her, but he’s afraid or deathly allergic? He saves her anyway and exhibits selflessness and bravery. Then what happens? In showing one interesting character trait you could potentially have pages and pages of text.

Don’t forget, though, that your main characters don’t exist in a vacuum. They interact with secondary characters, live in a house, an apartment, a trailer, a hotel. Their story plays out somewhere. This is something I’ll be discussing in my next ‘creating the story’ blog: the setting.

Until then I hope you found the blog enjoyable, informative or both.

Rose Connelly

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