When I was seventeen, I worked with a publisher who specifically worked to publish young people. She was published herself and full of information. She would take my work and write pages and pages of revisions that she suggested. It is from those pages and pages of revisions and tips that I bring you the next, most important writing tip according to her:
KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS!
Now, what exactly does knowing your characters mean? Do you think that you have a solid foundation for each and every one of your characters?
Okay, then let me ask you this: do you know what your characters’ favorite food is?
If not, then please read on.
When I first started writing, I filled out the basic character profiles listing what they looked liked, what their personality was like, and where they lived. But my mentor (the woman I referred to above) always drilled into me that those specifics are not enough. In order to create characters in which your reader will be able to connect to, you must know them like the back of your hand.
Think about how brilliant you are, you created people in your mind! How can you not know every little thing about them? Well, that’s just it. You DO know every little thing about each character that you have ever created, you just have not dug deep enough into them yet.
When you have well developed characters, and you know every little thing about them, you not only help yourself as a writer by having a lot of different situations where you can put them in based on their histories and personalities, but they will intensify your story by creating many different angles. For example, think about how successful Cassandra Clare and J. K. Rowling are. Now, think about all of their different characters. They know their characters from inside out and were able to create huge series around them because on the depth that they provided. My best advice is to create characters that you want to keep writing, and can keep writing, because of all of the information you have on them. Don’t make it so that the reader knows everything about them in one book. Make characters that will keep developing and growing. Even if you want to only write one book with these characters, you will always have the opportunity to go back and expand the series further.
Some of the best places to start with character development are to write backstories on them. Readers love backstories, and by understanding the backstories of your characters you will be able to understand their motives and where they come from. From there, go on and write about their families, past/present loves, and even the smallest details such as their favorite foods, likes/dislikes, and their aspirations.
I hope that this article helped you, and I am currently working on an in depth character profile worksheet that I would love to send anyone who would like to work on their character development.
Email me at email@example.com if you are interested and I will send you the worksheet!
Also, if you need any further advice on writing or help with character planning, feel free to comment below or email me and I will work with you one on one.
2 thoughts on “Writing Tip #3 – Know Your Characters”
What an awesome idea! I feel pretty dumb saying this in social media land where it will be around forever, but I simply never thought about it. When you asked if I knew what my character’s favorite food was, I immediately thought…No, but her favorite drink is a Jack and coke. But her favorite food, not a clue. And those are the things that I actually love about my favorite characters in other books, strange that I never considered it for my own.
Years ago, back in high school, my daughter did just that! She has one of those black and white notebooks full of character profiles and backstories. I thought it was a waste of time, I couldn’t understand why she spent all summer doing that and not actually writing the book. But now that I’m on my third book of my first trilogy, I wish I would’ve done exactly that!
I would greatly appreciate an e-mail of that worksheet, pretty please? firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for the writing tip, it’s definitely something I need to be more thorough about!
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I’m so happy this tip helped you 🙂 I will certainly send you the character sheet sometime today, I just have to get it ready!