(Craft): Four Keys to Good Characterization

After reading a story, most people remember the characters, or a particular one. Characters are the heart of a story. A plot may be intriguing, but it is usually the characters that remain in one’s memory.

In my own fiction writing, I have distilled four keys to creating memorable characters:

1) Know your character.  To know your character is to know what makes her tick, what motivates her, what drives her to do what she does.  Motivation is behind every action your character will take and every decision your character will make.  Motivation also helps maintain the cause-and-effect continuum and the plausibility so essential to your story.  

2) Trust your character.  While you, as the author, are in control of your story, trust your character to lead you down paths that only your character knows. If this concept frightens you, think of it like this: your character is really your subconscious mind bringing to light those things that need to be in your story.  A word of caution here, however: a character can lead you on a wild goose chase, so always maintain ultimate control of your story. 

3) Engage your character. Ask your character questions. I like to interview my character before I start to write my story and, sometimes, during the writing, especially if I reach an impasse. Your character will tell you everything you need to know. Just listen.

4) Enjoy your character. This doesn’t mean that you have to like your character. To enjoy means to take joy in. You have created your character, and you should take joy in that fact. Your character is uniquely your own and, by the grace of God, you have birthed him into fictional life.

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Copyright 2013 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD. All Rights Reserved.

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