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Monday, August 10, 2015

Common Mistakes in Character Development

Make your characters stand out from the crowd.
Post by Michelle Griep

New writers make all kinds of goofy-butt mistakes . . .

 - an overabundance
   of adverbs and 

 - enough backstory 
   in the first chapter
   to choke a hyena

 - prose so purple it looks like a bruise

But one of the biggest gaffs author wannabes make is found in character creation. Never fear though, little rookies, because here is a handy dandy list so that your writing won't scream "newbie," leastwise not in your character development.

5 Things NOT To Do With Your Characters

Talking Heads
Not that I'm dissing dialogue, but too much talking and thinking creates characters floating in a vacuum. Yeah, that's probably not scientifically possible, but whatever. Tether your reader to your characters by putting them in situations every reader experiences. This is where imagery comes in. Make sure to use sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

Playing Too Nice
Face it, life sometimes sucks. It needs to for your characters as well. A reader doesn't care about Suzy Sunshine and in fact may want to punch her in the head for being all Pollyanna. You can't go deep with your character's personality unless you torture them, because it's when a character is stressed that what's inside comes out. Your hero can't be heroic unless something dastardly happens to him -- repeatedly.
Keep your reader guessing what your characters will say.

Stilted Conversations
Think about this for a minute . . . do you know anyone who consistently speaks in complete sentences? Other than seventh-grade English teachers or academic nerds trying to impress a girl, people don't talk that way. Neither should your characters. Get over your junior high grammar class and give up the fear of using fragments. You can. See? Just did. That's how your characters should speak.

One-dimensional characters are boring. If a reader can predict exactly how your hero will react in any given situation, then you've made your character too flat. And ditch the stereotypes as well. Just because you've got a Native American in your story doesn't mean the dude is super connected to the earth and has a dream catcher hanging in his bedroom.

Too Many Characters
Make your main characters quirky, fun, and unique, but don't overdo it by giving every possible character a name or an outstanding characteristic. Readers don't want to know the nickname of the dogcatcher and don't care if there's a bum with a case of psoriasis sleeping on a bench as the hero passes by. If a character isn't a necessity to moving the plot forward, then feel free to gloss over him.

Keep in mind these five tips and you'll create characters that will haunt the reader's mind long after they've finished your story.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.


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