I attended a webinar the other day about tips for writing characters. I thought I’d share the main tips they talked about.
Show the adjectives
Instead of saying, “Josalyn is caring,” show how she’s caring. Does she take care of a child? Is she always there for others? Does she risk herself to save her friends? Show it in a scene.
This is especially good for writing relationships as well. A general rule I follow is to write scenes without characters saying, “I love you.” Make their partner be the first one they check on. The one they try to make laugh. The one they bake a cake for at random.
The reader can invest more into the character’s feelings and who they are if they’re described.
Relatable not lovable
Even if they’re not likable characters, make them human. Have them “save a cat,” for instance. If a cat is stuck in a tree, would no one have the heart to at least pause or stop? Try to help?
Another way of looking at it is: even villains believe they are heroes. No one is one hundred percent evil. Maybe they want someone dead but still believe in free healthcare. Or they want to take down a corporation but still give back to the poor. Give them a trait to make them relatable. They don’t have to be a lovable character to be a good character.
Ghosts from their past
Ghosts come back to haunt a little at a time. They’re not revealed all at once. Characters—like people—are also not going to want to talk about their past either, especially if it’s haunting them.
Give the readers hints that something’s off. Perhaps being in a car makes the character nervous, so they ride a bike everywhere. Or they avoid pizza at all costs. Then slowly build those bread crumbs until the climax.
However, a word of warning for this: be careful. Don’t introduce something without explaining at least some of it. Leaving the reader hanging brings up a lot of false tension. If the reader has too many questions, they’re likely to lose interest.
Hope these tips help!