Do you ever get feedback from a beta reader, editor, or critique partner to the effect of: “Something is missing from what you (the writer) know about your characters versus what is showing up on the page.”
Writers have a tendency to bring their characters to life in their heads before they come to life on the page. Or hold on to who they thought the character was, and refrain from letting the character evolve as the book goes on–and subsequently go back and edit according.
And most commonly, through the editing process, they edit away certain characteristics or motives and forget what is left.
Below are some tips and tricks I tell my authors or writers at conferences to help them better understand their characters:
- Letters: I love this tip. Write an open letter or diary entry from your character’s POV. Get their voice out and make sure it’s different than yours.
- Family Map: Do you have a complete cast of characters? Don’t hesitate to do a family tree or historical family map that covers time or territory.
- Color coding edit: Writing historical, mystery, or setting-sensitive subject matter? Don’t forget to print out your manuscript, get the highlighters out and color code important things like clues, red herrings, character traits, setting quirks and more to make sure everything is cohesive.
- Dialogue: If you did a blind test (with no dialogue tags) would you know who is speaking? Characters must have unique ways of speaking that are different than one another. Dialogue is the one way they can speak for themselves, don’t let it go to waste.
- Sketch: Write a character sketch with only characteristics that you’ve written in the current draft of your book. No extra notes. Is it complete? Add back in what’s missing.
- Follow this checklist!
Q: How do you make your characters stand out after the book is done?