Do the characters you write about become real to you? Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what they’re up to as if you could simply call them up and chat? I must admit I have done that once, okay maybe more than once.
Sure, they’re a figment of your imagination, and you’d do well to remember that, but creating good fictional characters involves more than mere physical description. In fact, some authors don’t provide a physical description at all; they leave it up to the imagination of the reader. What I’ve learned is that physical description is the least important part of good characterization.
If you want your characters to come to life, to know what they would say or do or feel, you need to get into their heads. You need to understand what motivates them. To do that you need to know where they’ve been. What has happened to them in the past? What was their childhood like? What environment did they grow up in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their hopes and fears? What have they experienced that would give rise to any quirks, phobias or disorders? Do they have any special talents or abilities? Do they have any unique expressions? How do they treat other people?
“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” ― Samuel Smiles
Of course, all of this is up to you. The answers to these questions come from your imagination. When you create a character that goes well beyond physical description, it is as if you have brought that character to life. They not only become real to you but they become real to your readers. The reader becomes invested in your book and that is the ultimate goal.
“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.” ― Berkeley Breathed
- Is Character Physical Description Overated? (tamararokicki.wordpress.com)
- The Complexity of Character (alexlaybourne.com)
- Can You Guess These Classic Fictional Characters Just By Their Description? (stuffinsidebooks.com)
- Characterization Part 6 (wordsmithsix.wordpress.com)