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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tips for Creating Well-Rounded Characters

Reviewing the surveys on my blogiversary post (which you guys can still submit answers to), you all asked for more writing tips. So here you have it: characters. Stick around for my newest #typewriterprompt ;)


I was scared to figure them out for Martin Hospitality and now? They're my favorite thing to plan! Here are some of the things I use:
I'm listing this one first, because it's one of my favorite things to do! If you're not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicater, learn more about the personalities here (there are 16). Figuring out what personality type my characters have is extremely helpful. It makes me think harder about them and once I've pinpointed them, all I have to do is type in their result on Pinterest and a plethora of "what they're like" pins appear. They're great for giving me new ideas and making sure I got the character's personality right :D

For example, I'm an INTJ or Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging. This pin sums me up so I'm pretty certain my personality type is correct.

I also love naming characters. I try to keep a running list of names going for my own sanity, because sometimes nothing perfect comes to mind. When I get really stuck, I research names. (And trust me, I do get stuck; it took me hours or research to name Gemma's next child.) Names have meanings and literally every person I have known in real life lives up to that meaning in some way.

I love the name Miriam, but it means "sea of bitterness or sorrow," "rebellion," "wished-for child," or "mistress or lady of the sea." Thus, an edgy MC in my pirate storyboard is named Miriam instead of my future daughter :) As with Miriam, names often have several meanings that can inspire plot bunnies.

Another way to name a character by meaning is to research foreign words. Google Translate has never been more helpful. "Hope" is amal in Arabic, nadezhda in Russian, and esperanza in Spanish. Esperanza actually gets used as a name.

Just please make names easy to pronounce correctly by sight. Kari is a simple name, but how do you say it? KAR-ee or KEH-ree? And maybe don't use twelve apostrophes. I get tired of reading names like L'af'ka'h. L'afka looks just as foreign ;)
Your readers will be able to keep track of your characters more easily if they are unique. J. K. Rowling has more characters in her story than any other I've read. But I can still name most of them, a physical feature, and a role they played in the story. Watching the movies may have helped me remember them all, but that's because I'm visual. That's still a lot of names!

In Martin Hospitality, I gave Gemma several friends while she's in Wichita. Hollie James is a vibrant, bubbly, cheerful character. But Ginger Martin could be described the same way. So I gave Hollie eccentric style, crazy driving skills, and a pet name for Gemma. Ginger is a sweetheart and a star baker who would hesitate before speaking her mind quite as freely as Hollie does :) Thus, they became very different characters in my mind. It also helped that they never shared "screen time" together.

Whether it's a speech tic, an item of clothing (asparagus green fedora*cough*), a nervous habit, eye color, or a unique personality ... you have plenty to make your characters stand out from one another. 
Every character has backstory even if it only gets mentioned in passing. Everyone's coming from somewhere. It's important when you form their character in the present, that you keep them consistent with their past. (This is one reason I love character charts that make me consider their past before I write.) Maybe it's their accent or ethnicity. Maybe it's something more fine print like having a certain reaction under pressure because of a past circumstance. What kind of education must they have gotten to have the kind of job you gave them?

It's important to think about these things because they become inconsistencies in the story if they don't line up. While there are ways around some standards (MINOR SPOILER EXAMPLE: Gemma worked at a law firm without qualifications due to Mr. Martin and a glitch.)
These are the best! If you haven't used character charts (sometimes called character sheets) to plan your characters, you are missing out! They're so much fun!! I have used this one and this one from Pinterest, but this one from Jill Williamson is my absolute favorite. It combines everything above. Obviously that last one is pretty in depth, so I only use it for my main characters: antagonist, protagonist, villain, any POV peeps, and any other characters I want to understand more. I love charts because they don't just make me think about the character more, they make me think about their role in the story and where they're coming from. Scribbling all that down on one piece of paper for reference is SUPER helpful! I've thought about designing my own, but that's been really hard ;)

Characters will make or break a book. Have fun with them!! They may sound like a lot of work, but it's not as hard as you might think once you get in there, and they're worth it. They've become my favorite part of planning a story. I'll wing everything else if I have to ;)

Aaaand it's the last Saturday of the month whaaat?! so I need to share another writing prompt with you!


What kind of characters does that bring to your mind? If you missed the reveal of #1-12, you can view them on my blogiversary post, or view them on this Pinterest board. Repinning them would be awesome (#typewriterprompt)! Thanks to all of you who already have ^.^ 

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As an announcement: I just found out that I won all 5 of the indie awards I was nominated for as a part of Kendra's e-con!! What?! *screams* *tears up* Thank you all so much for voting! The beautiful badges are on my Shop page ^.^

Next Saturday begins the self-publication series you've all been waiting for!! Definitely submit questions to me through this survey if you haven't already! It's been immensely helpful for my planning.

Also, I blog over at Teen Authors Journal now on Thursdays and I am super proud of my latest post: 7 Writing Lessons from Beauty and the Beast. I would love it if you'd check it out (and share it around ;D)

Have a great weekend! :)