People plotting: Creating unique characters – Part two

c97ff168b28a89906a2c040f1a18ae0cThe best writers create characters that you instantly feel that you’d recognize on the street if they came to life. So what kinds of things make us different? Everyone doesn’t like the same food and some are allergic to certain things. People are sometimes described as dog people or cat people but some might be neither or be allergic to dogs, cats, or both, affecting their choice of pets. We all have different likes and dislikes, or specific hopes and fears, things that help to determine our personality.

People’s voices are often distinctive, stereotypical male villains might stroke a beard thoughtfully, some people hug when they meet, others shy away from such close personal contact, some people have firm handshakes and some very weak. These things, and countless others, make up our personalities, differentiate us from others, and make us who we are.

However don’t be tempted to make a character too different. Assuming that you’re not creating a wacky cartoon character, don’t invent someone with bright orange spiky hair, an eye patch, two facial scars in unusual shapes, a hooked hand, a wooden leg, and an unintelligible dialect, since this will not only seem ridiculous to the reader but also risk detracting from the telling of the story.

Any yet you also can’t go too far in the opposite direction and make people too perfect, no matter how tempting that may be. After all, now many of us know any perfect people? Characters need problems, flaws, phobias, whether it’s about spiders, heights, crowds, closed spaces, or indeed anything that makes them more believable.

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