With that in mind, spending time to get to know your characters – the ones that make your story real to your readers - is important for you as the storyteller. Your characters must be like real people (or real vampires, or zombies, whatever the creatures in your story) meaning that they shouldn’t be perfect. They must have whatever physical, mental, emotional, fashion, and/or personality flaws that a real person/being might have. The more unique, pronounced, and realistic the flaws the more likely your readers will empathize with them. Even if you have a character that you want to portray as the perfect woman or man, there must be something about them that makes them human; some chink in their armor that makes them vulnerable, physically or mentally. The phrase “nobody’s perfect” applies. Heck, even Superman had to contend with Kryptonite.
It is a good habit to log your characters’ traits, from their physical stature to their emotional attachments. This can be in spreadsheet form, in a list, or in a narrative. Keep this information handy and refer to it as often as needed to keep your characters consistent throughout your story or even throughout and entire series.
As you write your story, try to divulge your characters’ traits without doing it in a single, narrated paragraph that simply spews out vital stats. Build your characters within the story through the thoughts and dialogue of others. Be sure to check yourself for consistency against your notes. Readers are attentive. They remember details as the story progresses. If one of your characters started out in chapter one as a six foot, blue-eyed, blond-haired, muscular beefcake and in chapter eleven, he’s changed to a five-foot-eight-inch, brown-eyed, middle-aged man with a beer belly, you’ve lost your readers as well as your credibility.
So spend time on your characters, especially your main characters. Think through their role in the story. Make sure they’re real, at least real in the context of the world that you’ve developed. If they’re from the California coast, they might be a real cool dude. If from Georgia, ya’ll might want ’em to have a bit of a twang when they talk. Make them believable. Above all, keep them consistent from start to finish.
Consider These Writing Habits is a monthly blog by Loconeal Mystery-Suspense author P. J. Grondin. Visit www.pjgrondin.com for a list of P. J. Grondin book signings and events.