Characters are the turkey of a delicious turkey sandwich from Subway, the thing that every story needs in order to truly be a story. You can’t write a story that has no characters. Even when you write a simple poem describing a beautiful scene, the reader or the narrator could be the character of that poem.
So, when you need to create your characters, you need to do an excellent job. Not just an excellent job. An amazing, fantastic, magical job. However, in many stories all around the world floating in the sewers, the characters are horribly one-dimensional. They behave in a way no one ever would, and are just disgusting to read about. Characters can also have too much which overloads everything and turns a character into a dreaded Mary Sue.
Of course, I’m not here to talk about Mary Sues. I’m here to talk about developing characters. Let me ask you a few questions about your character. Doesn’t matter who. Pluck anyone from your writings and put them in the spotlight. Now, tell me; what is their middle name? How do they sleep? Do they like making lists and organizing or do they like being spontaneous? Do they prefer silly Christmas tree decorations or classic Christmas tree baubles with strings of lights and popcorn hanging all around? Do they even celebrate Christmas? What is their religion? Are they an Atheist? Do they like Apple phones or Samsung phones? Do they have a certain clothing style? Where do their parents come from? How did their parents meet? Do they like milk chocolate or dark chocolate or no chocolate at all?
I’m making you a bit uncomfortable with all these questions, aren’t I? To craft a story, these are the things you need to know about your character. Maybe not the exact things I asked you, but those are the types of questions you should try to answer about your character.
When you add something to your character’s biography, or bio, it bleeds into your writing. Even the fact of how they decorate their Christmas trees could decide if you character is more traditional or more modern. Those facts could be influential in your story. Even though your readers will never learn of this.
If you were reading a thrilling mystery novel, do you really want to the story to be interrupted so that we can learn how someone decorates a tree? If it’s a Christmas story, you could, but not if it’s in the summer! This applies to any little quirk you put into your characters. While the reader doesn’t necessarily want to know all these facts, when you know them, it only helps to shape your character.
Those of you new to writing may be wondering if little details to help your character is needed when the reader will never know. Surely you could just fill in the important spots of those character questionnaires and leave out their favorite cereal. Let me put it this way. You’re writing a horror story. Everyone is scared, shaken, disoriented. full panic mood. Is the character you are creating always scared, shaken and disoriented? Do they put themselves into these situations for fun? Of course not. Make your character into an iceberg. While the reader only sees the top layer, there are hidden layers underneath the water that help the character float.
If you’re having a tough time figuring out little things to add about your characters, put them through a character questionnaire. You can find many of these online. They list multiple different facts about your characters life to help you mold your character into reality, ready to face the villains and challenges you lay ahead.
However, those challenges are for another time.