Friday, September 16, 2011

What's in a Character--Part One

Developing a well-rounded character can be a challenge. In my opinion, a recipe for good characterization includes dialogue, actions, thoughts, and emotions.

Is this list comprehensive? I'm sure it isn't, and I look forward to hearing how you make your characters come alive.

While I’m separating these four factors into their own category, each is inter-tied and can’t, or at least, shouldn’t exist without the others. Originally I was going to post this article as one entry, but it became too long and unwieldy. So I’m separating it into two parts:

Part 1 -- dialogue, actions, thoughts

Part 2 -- emotions

Now on to the fir
st part!


Dialogue helps define your characters’ personality. How they talk clues us in to a lot of details -- a general location of where they may have grown up, how educated they may be, what they’re feeling, and so on.

Each character should have a distinct talking pattern. As we all know, a person growing up in Ireland sounds different than a person who was raised in the States. Even within one country, though, there are so many different dialects associated with geography and socio-economics.


I’m not talking about fight scenes. Any movement or action that places our character in the world outside her mind is enough to fulfill the criteria. We need action in our stories to ground the character in her surroundings.

Otherwise, every scene might as well just take place in a giant white room. Setting the mood and tone with the character’s surroundings is a beneficial tool in characterization. I go more into this below in the Thoughts section, so read on!


Thoughts are a front seat to the character, as they illuminate emotions and what the character plans to do next. The downfall with thoughts, though, is when a writer stays too long in a character’s
mind without letting the reader see the fictional outside world.

To avoid this, we need to add in some kind of movement or action. Have the character notice and interact with his surroundings in a way that reflects his mood. If he’s happy, he might notice and admire the bright sky while walking outside. If angry, the same bright sky may annoy the heck out of him. Or you may choose to echo his mood with black clouds roiling overhead. Also, if the character isn’t alone, have him strike up dialogue.

Do you have any ‘favorite tricks of the trade when it comes to weaving in dialogue, actions, or thoughts to character development? If so, share them

Please join us for the second part next month.

Now for a little self-promo. I just released a short fantasy romance that's a good read for Halloween. Read on to learn more!

Here's the blurb:

Nora Barrons has experienced increasingly sensual, life-like dreams of a Sidhe male after his appearance to her at the fabled Hollow Hills as a teenager. That autumn encounter left her fey marked--and violently sick whenever she attempts to be intimate with any man. Now, seven years later, she arrives at the Hills to search for the mysterious Fae and end his hold over her once and for all.

But what Nora finds there threatens to rend the very fabric of her life. With his potent allure, Tillon is hard to resist, and so is his reason for fey marking her. She'll have to decide whether she can accept the mark or turn away from it--and Tillon.


Promo done!

Thanks for reading!


Brenda said...

Great post! And you have what is needed to make a character 3 dimensional.
The only thing I will add is for us, the writer, to know our characters better than the back of our hands. When we know our characters really well, the character's personalities, their movements, speech, thoughts, wants, etc, etc, come shining through in our stories.

Lynn Spangler said...

Excellent pieces of advice, Lisa! Great post! I try to combine a bit of all four pieces when I write and try to create well-rounded characters.

mirriamsmyth said...

Nice first part, Lisa. And I agree with Brenda's addition. I connect more with my male characters than I do my female, but I'm learning to build them to be more real for me. This post will definitely help.

Jennifer Lowery (Kamptner) said...

Wish I had some tricks of the trade, but I'm always still learning, lol! Great post!

Sheri Fredricks said...

Wish this post had been around when I started writing. It would have saved me time and embarrassment! Great post.