5 Tips for Creating Memorable Characters for Your Novel

booksMany writers struggle with character development, and it is sometimes one of the main sources of writer’s block. Here are some tips for creating characters that make an impression and a strong work of fiction:
1. Work Backwards
Brian Kiteley, author of The 3 AM Epiphany and The 4 AM Breakthrough creates practice exercises for writing, using restrictions or pre-planned scenes to explore character creation and development. Try outlining a specific situation, mapping a character’s reaction and building your characterization based on how or why they react in that scene
2. Show, Don’t Tell
This is a tip that you will get from everyone from college professors to best-selling authors. Rather than telling your readers about a character, let them figure it out. Animate them. Make them real. Show what they are wearing by describing the sound their shoes make on the tile or what they look like by their reflection in a store window. Spending pages on character description will drive readers crazy.
3. Draw Inspiration from Real Life
Virginia Woolf said in her essay Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown that practicing character reading and development does not have to be about creating experiences that are outside of the realm of daily life, but simply learning to “live a single year of life without disaster.” Learn people, study their accents, their reactions, their habits, and create characters based on things you might see every day. This allows your readers to easily envision your characters and connect with them.
4. Do Not Be Afraid to Stray from Reality
This tip seems contradictory to #3, but it is important not to stifle your creativity. In an interview with Amazon, JK Rowling explained her own experience with this:
“Mostly, real people inspire a character, but once they are inside your head they start turning into something quite different. Professor Snape and Gilderoy Lockhart both started as exaggerated versions of people I’ve met, but became rather different once I got them on the page”
Remember to allow for your imagination to run freely, even if you are using reality for inspiration. It is okay if your original ideas do not pan out; sometimes, that process creates the best fiction.
5. Get to Know Your Characters
Ask yourself questions about them. What do they eat for breakfast? What is their favorite way to spend free time? What are their flaws and deepest secrets? You should know your character better than you know yourself and be able to explain their actions, reactions, feelings, and desires. That is the only way to create characters that make an impression and keep readers wanting more.