How to Get the Most Out Of Your Characters – Part 2
Part 1 looked at creating a compelling character using realism, emotions, fears, goals and motivations. They’re elements that an interesting and memorable character should have. But there are even more ways to get the most from your characters.
The one thing characters do in any given situation is they display certain behaviours, depending what is happening. Actions often speak louder than words, so the reader will be looking at how your character acts and what he says. If you have developed your character well, they will have their own personalities – which in turn determine how they act.
How would they act in a tense scene, or a confrontation scene, an action or love scene? And what they say, and how they say it, is also important. That’s why dialogue plays such an important role in characterisation. Characters have to carry emotion not just in their actions, but also in their conversations – characters can sometimes be profound in what they say, in a way that resonates with the reader and makes them understand the character better.
Of course, with character actions, there comes something else that is a must for creating compelling, realistic characters, and that is reactions.
Character reactions tell us much more about what lies beneath. Reactions reveal personality traits not normally apparent. Their responses to certain things can show us their deep emotions or show us that something is bothering them. It’s what we don’t normally see that makes it so fascinating when we glimpse flashes of their true selves when they are reacting to other characters and situations.
They may be able to keep their true emotions hidden from other characters, but not from the reader. The reader will notice these things. That’s why writers should use character actions and reactions to create great characters your readers will love (or hate). Actions and reactions are a way of revealing your character in subtle ways, but they can also be used to show key revelations, where subtlety won’t cut it.
How your character responds, through how they react, don’t react, what they say, don’t say or how they say it, gives the reader hints and insights into whom your characters really are. It can be overt or subtle - actions and reactions share equal importance.
In addition to their physical reactions and dialogue, the other aspect that writers often forget is internal thoughts. How many times in a novel can you say the reader gets to see what your character is really thinking? Inner thoughts create immediacy; it allows the reader to connect with the character. That’s because they will be privy to your character’s inner most thoughts and emotions, while other characters are not, so don’t be afraid to show what your character is thinking when reacting to situations and other characters.
Remember that your characters carry the story, and that great characters make the story – the kind of people who are believable, realistic, flawed, emotional, motivated, driven, and most of all, interesting and compelling.