No character, not story, right? But do you know your characters? And should you? Each character is consists of several parts, which, together, give the reader the idea of a real person. These include traits, nature, favorite and hated things, gestures, speech… When you give your character something specific in all these areas, they will look much more alive. If you really know your character, it will not be a problem for you to tell how they would behave even in an unrealistic situation, and you will avoid difficulties.
Who is the character?
Each author has their own way of animating the character and distinguishing them from others. Here is a simple example that can help you find your own path. Take a group of four friends. How can they differ so that they do not act as copies? Sure, one may be blond, the other may be Asian, the third is black, and the fourth one is an alien. But what about their personalities? And how can these personalities be manifested in the looks of the characters?
Imagine their shoes
No kidding, imagine what shoes they would wear every day. To work? How about in their free time? And what shoes would they choose for a date? How about their dreams about their future? Is there some footwear they cannot afford or there is no occasion for such shoes in their lives yet? Look at the picture. One of the four friends wears these. What would you say about such a person? Write it in the comments! I look forward to your insight and speculations!
Find out what drives them
What do they want to achieve in their life and what is most important to them? What are they afraid of and what will hurt them the most? What is their best memory and what is the happiest moment in their lives? What will they forgive with ease and what will they not forgive even their loved ones? What could they not live with? If any wish could come true, what kind of life would they create?
People don’t belong in boxes, but it will help you with the characters. Categorize your character. Introvert or extrovert, Hogwarts College, a sign of the zodiac, which of the gods would be their parent, what superhero or villain they would be and so on. There are a lot of personality tests and quizzes on the Internet. Fill them in for your characters! For example, the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator personality test has sixteen categories and works with a scale system. That’s pretty specific. Such a classification can help you determine what makes your character special. What are they good at? What are their weaknesses? And once you know that, it’s much easier to stick with it and use it in your story. Sometimes we have an idea of a character, but it is difficult for us to “distill” individual aspects of his personality. Our perception is blurred and we struggle as we write because we don’t fully understand our characters. In this case, categorizing can help us. Really.
Have the character in the story under control
Pay attention to how your character really acts in every scene they appear in. You can have the original basic idea that your character is ambitious, disciplined, and the best in their field. You have to show it. You can accidentally ruin your character idea by actions that may fit the story and you feel the new chapters go well. Imagine you have started the story with a police officer character. A head of the police department. And you have decided he is a fierce and just expert. But, gradually, he starts struggling with the morale of his team and solves their trouble for them. As a result, he neglects his duties and endangers the evidence or the safety of witnesses. That is someone completely different than you wanted, right?
Your characters’ firmly set and controlled personalities can also help you with the story. If they want something, you can deny it to them or put an obstacle in their way. And you have … a plot and tension! Of course, these character desires can complicate your story as well. Depending on what decision you make for a character, the character evolves as the story unfolds. When you introduce many characters with different personalities and wants, you may get lost. Planning is the key. If you have a character destined to leave their family and leave the country, you must remember this as you write and direct the character to do so. If the character repeatedly makes decisions that lead to the family and to stay in the country, it is clear that they will not want to leave. And how do you suddenly convince everyone involved that leaving is the most ideal solution? Without torture and blackmail? Naturally?
Have you heard of the catastrophic end of the Game of Thrones? The author got stuck with the last book because it was scheduled to end, but he didn’t know how to get to it. One of the main characters was to burn the city and massacre the innocent. All the while, this character protects the weaker and suddenly has to turn one hundred and eighty degrees. The screenwriters of the series tried to deal with it during one series and came up with their own solution, but according to the reaction of the audience, it is clear that they failed. With each moment the character behaved rationally or protected someone, she moved away from her predestined goal. If more clear and prominent seeds of madness flashed to the surface throughout the series, the author wouldn’t be stuck trying to make sense of it, and the series wouldn’t be wondering what the hell just happened. In short and well, think about what you want from the character and direct her to it.
But if you get into a situation where it no longer makes sense, don’t be afraid to change the end so that it makes sense. It is better to leave the original plan than to stick to it. Or go back and edit the story to make it work! The main thing is to make your story make sense and the characters behave incredibly. When I ask you why your character behaved this way and that way, you, as the author, should have the answer. “Because it was necessary for the story” will not be enough for me. The character is not a story, the character thinks that he is a real person with real goals and reasons. Let’s not forget that.