Characterisation Tips by Allison Symes

Inventing my own people has always been my favourite aspect to story writing. I believe if you get the character right, so much of the storyline will arise from that portrayal.

If my character is a villain, then I know they are going to do something criminal (even if I haven’t worked out what that is yet) and the conflict will inevitably come from whoever tries to stop them. So basic story structure is already in place. 

Pixabay image
 

I thought I’d share ten thoughts which have helped me as I outline “my people” prior to writing their stories up (and it is their story. You do want the reader to be totally taken by the characters). 

Time for tips then!

Can your reader identify with your character?

What do you think this identification hinges on?

Pixabay image
 

Can your character cause a reaction in a potential reader? (It doesn’t have to be a “good” reaction - think of the impact a well-portrayed villain can have on a story).

What do you the writer think of your character? (You are your own first reader).

Pixabay image
 

Outlining your character can be as simple or as detailed as you like but it can be a useful way to help you picture your people properly. Once you’ve got them fixed in your head, it is easier to write their stories up. (Note I said easier, not easy!).

When naming a character, think about their age. You want a name that would appropriate for that age. I can’t think of anyone called Sky living in the Victorian era for example  but it would be a good name for someone born in the 1980s or thereabouts.   

Pixabay image
 

It is the characters that stick in readers’ minds so it is worth getting them right. Great characters  give the storyline momentum. That in turn comes through to your reader. Think about the last book you couldn’t put down and ask yourself why. It will be connected to this point.

A great plot is strengthened by gripping characters who will take that storyline and run with it.

A great plot is weakened by characters who do not grip the reader. I’ve read stories like this and am always left feeling the story was a let down. I never feel that way when the character is wonderful.

Conflict arises naturally from well-portrayed characters. Think about heroes and villains. They play off each other. The villain will always try to use the hero’s weaknesses against them. But you as the writer need to know what those weaknesses are and what your villain is capable of and why.

Pixabay image
 

I’ve sometimes written flash stories which are character studies (and are effectively monologues). There, I’ve tried to make the character’s voice memorable and I usually try to elicit sympathy from the reader. I think about why a reader would sympathize with the character and outline said character accordingly.

Happy writing and I hope you find these tips useful.



Pixabay image

Comments

  1. You mention monologues and that reminds me of Alan Bennett's character studies in his 'Talking Heads' series. I love the way he gradually reveals the truth about a character who is often an unreliable narrator, so you have to be on your guard!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My favourite Talking Head was the Thora Hird Cream Crackers one. Just brilliant writing and a fabulous performance from her.

      Delete
    2. I loved Talking Heads, but I could only ever watch the Thora Hird one once. It upset me so much and made me cry hysterically. The acting and the writing was second to none.

      Delete
    3. I know, Ruth, but it was just superb.

      Delete
  2. I love Top Tips, Allison and this was no exception!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ruth. I've a soft spot for lists and Top Tips are always useful.

      Delete
  3. Enjoyed your blog Allison. Lots of useful tips here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for this, Allison. Very thought provoking.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Some good tips here, Allison, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Allison. I might have a go at a short story that's a character study/monologue now.
    It's those books where I find I don't care about the characters (sorry to any fans but Gone With The Wind), which are the most unsatisfying and frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fabulous post, Allison. Top tips are very useful. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment