Tips on adding depth to characters

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Characterization is one of the most difficult aspects of writing a novel. Charles Dickens made it look easy, but for most of us, creating life-like characters is no easy task. Nevertheless, a character who really “lives” will elevate your story and really help get your books more attention!

In this session, iUniverse presents some points on how to make your characters more flesh-and-blood.

Deepen your characters through dialogue. The need to have a good plot often distracts writers from the need to really “paint” their characters. Dialogue is one of the chief ways to give readers insight into a character’s personality. It also seems more realistic, to hear people talking instead of long descriptions of them.


Pip, waiting on Miss Havisham, from Dickens’ Great Expectations

Characters, like people, have a background. An interesting character will also have other information for readers to learn about: a job, family, perhaps an unusual education or childhood. He or she may also dress in a certain manner.

Idiosyncrasies are also great ways to distinguish a character. Dickens excelled at giving nearly every character an attribute that was memorable. There are extremes, like Miss Havisham – who wears her wedding dress every day – to Mr. Jaggers, who habitually bites his finger. And both are from the same novel, Great Expectations. George Smiley, the spymaster in present-day author John le Carre’s novels, has a tendency to wipe his eyeglasses on his tie. The list goes on and on, and there is always room for more peculiarities to define characters.

Avoid absolutes. Few people are pure good or pure evil. The same should apply to characters. The characters of classic writers endure because they are human, possessing fortes and shortcomings. Give your characters permission to be human and to have both.

iUniverse looks forward to hearing about deep, enduring characters that you have created. Stay tuned for more tips on how to add color to your novel and characters.

Which characters do you think have great idiosyncrasies? Let us know!

Make sure to check out the iUniverse site for more advice and blogs, as well as iUniverse Facebook and iUniverse Twitter.



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