Morning writers! I hope you’ve all had a good week.
As my first draft for novel 2 plods along, I am realising that I need to do more work on portraying my characters. My revisions, re-writes and edits will focus heavily on the characters and how they are portrayed to the reader.
So, I’ve already started making notes about the following five ways that I could portray them, and I thought it made sense to share these ways with all of you, just in case any of you have the same issue. Take a look:
Perhaps the most obvious way to portray characters;; appearance. The way they look, their physical traits, are the first real way to build an image in the reader’s mind. You don’t want your characters to be faceless, because it makes it hard to connect with them and see them as real people. Physical appearance can also tell you a lot about a character, as it includes not only the basics (eye colour, hair colour, height), but also the way they walk, the way they hold themselves, any nervous habits etc…you need to make sure you’ve described the way characters look, including relevant details, to build up that image. Though do try to avoid an info dump. Make sure that when their looks are being described, it’s relevant to the story.
This is the way other characters look at and interpret each other. In this method or portrayal, the way a character is described is based on the narrating character’s observations, judgements and personal opinions. This can be fun to play with if you have an unreliable narrator. It is also a useful method for anyone using joint POV. Because this way you get to show how a narrating character appears in their own opinion, and how they appear from the point of view of somebody else. You can show a side of your character that you wouldn’t get via a one-sided, first-person-only account.
You’ll have heard, repeatedly, the advice of show not tell. Well, action is another really important way to portray characters in your story. It’s no good telling the reader that a character behaves a certain way, but never backing up the claim with actions. For example, doesn’t she was clumsy sound far less interesting than she tripped on her way up the stairs, narrowly avoiding head-butting the door frame. She did not need another bruise for her collection… ?
As a reader I find it far more satisfying to be able to interpret a character through their actions, without having all their positive and negative traits explained in simple terms.
Displaying a character’s inner thoughts can tell the reader a lot. Not only the thoughts themselves, but the way the character thinks and the things they notice around them can be a fascinating insight. It can also show how characters present themselves differently to those around them, compared to who they are in the privacy of their own thoughts. For example, are they all kindness and smiles on the outside, but sarcasm and bitterness on the inside?
Speech is very telling, and this comes with giving your character a strong and distinctive voice. Everything from word choices to the way they say things can be insightful and help craft a character who sounds real and authentic. You can also show a lot about them by the things they say, and the things they choose not say, which ties in with the inner thoughts mentioned above.
What do you think? Do you have a favourite way to portray your characters? Perhaps a method you aren’t exploring enough? Comment below to share your thoughts and advice.