Characters are the life force of any story, movie, or book. If you want a compelling story or book, your character has to be equally compelling. It’s through the character’s eyes and thoughts that the reader or movie goer understands the environment and sees themes. The better the character, the better your audience will understand the message you’re trying to convey.
Normally, when I think of a character, the idea is already in my head. This allows me to write the character just as I see them—it’s a free write, without spell or grammar check. I’m just getting the idea down as its is in my head without interruption. Then, as many other books suggest, I’ll write a questionnaire about my main character. I’ll also use a shorter version of the same questions for the minor characters. Here are some of the things I’ll ask myself about the character.
I need to know the character’s
- Physical status
- Feeling of employment
- Education background
- Type of childhood and most fondest memories
- Social skills
- Emotional Strength (How well they deal with various emotions)
- Philosophy (On love, sex, community, parenting, etc)
Then I ask myself two questions:
- How does the personal goals of the character directly and/or indirectly influence my main character.
- How does the character help shape the overall theme for the piece
Answering those questions helped me answered questions like, “What does he or she do when their angry.” Now the answers to the questions will help bring out the overall theme. It also helps to move the theme along or it’ll reflect on the main character.
However, if see that one of my characters doesn’t seem to move the theme or story forward or they add nothing to the main character—then the character needs to be reworked or deleted.
I try to make sure that everything that happens in my story, both directly and indirectly, impacts my main character. That prevents me from getting off or away from my theme. It also helps me keep the pace and intensity.
If you have any tips for perfecting characterization, let me know in the comments section.