Ron’s Lit Tip Building Characters

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09 22 2020

Welcome to Ron’s Lit Tip. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I will share a tip with you.

When writing a story, when do I create characters?

Good question. The short answer is whenever you want. But let’s look at this in more depth.

Importance of Character

Some characters are more important than others. I would suggest you have at least a general idea of who and what the most important characters are before you start writing. The reason is that the primary character(s) will exert influence right from the beginning. Know how your character fits in with the story and having a concept of how things will end for the character will help you in developing your story.

First Occurrence of Primary Character

In most novels the primary character shows up in the first chapter and often on the first page. This is an excellent time to introduce your characters best (or worst) characteristics to the reader. It will shape their opinion of that character from that point onward.

I suggest height, build, hair style and color, skin color, or speech be revealed up front. Skin color tells the reader a great deal, so if you want a little mystery there you would wait to reveal that fact. It is really up to you and depends on how you want your character revealed.

I would suggest you emphasize the primary characteristic. Perhaps the character has a temper, show it. Or perhaps the character tends to listen in on conversations other people are having. Why not show it?

First Occurrence of Other Characters

You don’t need a full biological report here, but it would be helpful if some important characteristic is introduced immediately. It could be he or she had red hair. Or maybe a prominent nose. It could be anything, and it could prove important later on.

Do I need a Record of the Character’s characteristics?

Different authors do different things. Some create a separate document and list the characters by name and what characteristics they have. Some authors do this mentally. I’ve tried both and generally prefer a separate document. Depending on your memory can lead to mistakes, while depending on a document can lead to further developments and even growth of the character(s).

What about using lisps or accents?

If you use lisps, accents, or anything else that is noticeable, then you need to be consistent. In my novel Perished: The World That Was I had the Serpent talk with a lisp. It required consistency or the reader would have noticed it. In the story, Serpent was taken over by Lucifer and the lisp was gone. It helped dramatize the moment.

In another situation I had Methuselah use an identifying phrase. It was something he said that both drew attention to him and to whatever he was emphasizing. It required diligence on my part but it worked.

So, when do I create my characters?

I would suggest you develop your primary and some of your support characters before you start your story. That doesn’t mean include them all at once, but rather to have the capability to include them whenever desired. I also believe, although I don’t always do so, that it is best if you have them in a separate document which becomes a valuable resource.

Tip: Pay attention to your Characters, make a list of their characteristics, and develop them into useful contributors to your story. And prepare them as early as possible.

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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. He is also an author of Historical, Speculative, and Mystery fiction, plus co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books. To reply to any blog you can comment on a blog and/or send an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. His Facebook page is at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. #Writingservices