Every writer has an achilles heel. Mine is characterization.
I’m fantastic at world building – I can create compelling settings that will wrap you up and transport you away from whatever mudane place you find yourself in.
I’m also great at plot. Not bragging here. It’s something that just comes naturally to me.
The one thing I consistently get dinged for is my characterization, or lack thereof. I’ve worked on it for years, and I’m way better than I used to be, bit alas, there’s still room for improvement.
Agents and publishers have a word for this – they call it voice. They’re always going on about wanting stories with a compelling and unique voice. What they really mean is one with characters that leap off the page, that make you need to know more.
Mark and I have been watching The West Wing, binging it from the first episode, and it strikes me what a fantastic creator of unique voices Aaron Sorkin is. His characters are all so clearly delineated – you know what they are thinking and how they will react in almost any given situation. And the sparring between them! OMG, the give and take is nothing short of revelatory.
I’m about to dig into my latest novel after getting feedback from a Pitch Wars mentor (who didn’t choose me but was kind enough to give me some pointers), and from my editor. Both of them encouraged me to go deeper with my characters.
It’s easy to say, but how the hell am I supposed to do that?
I’m taking a few different tacks here.
First off, I came up with the idea of finding a TV or film character to think of when writing my character. I’ve used this trick before – Xander Kinnson in the Oberon Cycle is partly based on Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk.
Second, I found a great book on characterization – Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget, by Stant Litore. It’s full of practical exercises that have helped to crack open my brain and make me think differently about how I create and think about my characters.
Today I’m setting off on a new journey, taking a deep dive into who they are and why they do the things they do.
If I can be half as good as Sorkin, it will be good enough. 😉
For my writing friends – how do you create compelling characters? Share your tips and tricks.