Characterization Lives In The Little “Somethings”

It’s a fun concept. Giving – or knowing, even if just in the writer’s head – that level of detail allows a three- dimensional person to evolve. Someone who, with just a few lines, can endear themselves to a reader.

“As if talking to himself (which he might have been doing), he said he wanted some company while he worked. This bird fit the, um, bill. He brought it back to the table so it could watch him do math.”

In 40 words, we can fall in love with a character. That’s how simple it can be to write an amazing character. And how hard. Lacy or colorful shoes indicate an inner free spirit in a character. Maybe an outward free spirit, too.

It’s fun to wonder what unique traits my characters have had (or what I have myself as a 3-D person)!

Nice job with this.

Allison Maruska

Last night, I started outlining a new story. There are two POV characters. One is Beth, an English woman whose story occurs in 1981. The other is Sonia, an American woman (I haven’t figured out which city yet) living in the present day.

character-quoteI know basic details for each character.

Beth – English, a primary school teacher, married, romantic (idolizes Lady Di), a little anxious, can be disorganized. Has long, dirty-blonde hair that’s unruly at times. She’s short and a little overweight.

Sonia – African-American, lives in a big city, political science professor, engaged, tall, fit, type-A. Prefers intellectual conversations to dreamy flights of fancy.

Those are good details to start, but as get to know them, I realize I need more. I need those little “somethings” that make someone special. Unique. Real.

The risk when creating characters is to fall into stereotypes. Like the Hemingway quote suggests, we want…

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