Every writer and reader understands the importance of having good characterization, but what is the secret to creating characters that stand out and really drive a story? It is knowing your characters, truly knowing them, as if they were your best friend.
How can you become that connected with a fictional character that you are creating you ask? Well, it’s actually quite simple.
The first step is to fill out a long, detailed characterization chart. Either find one or create your own. It is kind of like an interview where you ask your character questions about his or her self from the most basic level to the most detailed, and you answer the questions in the mind of the character. Another thing I like to do is to take personality quizzes, putting myself in the head of my character and answering the questions as if I were him/her. While doing this, I love to listen to the music that my character likes. I believe you can learn a lot about a person by listening to the music that they like. Even if you do not enjoy listening to the particular music that your character does, when you are in the mind of your character you won’t mind it as much, and it will help you to empathize with them. For example, if your character is a country music fan, but you would rather listen to rock, listen to the country music.
After you finish filling out the characterization chart, I would suggest writing a two-three paragraph summary about your character’s lie. Every person has a lie that they tell themselves, whether it be that they are not good enough, aren’t smart enough, aren’t pretty enough, forgettable, etc. Really digging deep into this lie and why it is there is going to help you tremendously when writing any sort of conflict, especially inner conflict.
Finally, before beginning writing, it would be a good idea to write a five paragraph report, outlining your character’s story line. This will help you with the mini story lines within the book.
Once you have done these steps, you should be able to see your character everywhere you go. You should feel like they are following you at all times. For me, it is almost like a ghost is next to me telling me about his life all the time. It sounds creepy, but it is actually really cool. This causes you to constantly be living in your story world, presenting you with new ideas and details to add to your book.
Always. ALWAYS. Ask yourself before you write, do I really know my characters?