Writing and Editing

3 Ways to Add Life to Your Characters

While I love doing professional and business writing, my very first love was creative writing. In my journalism classes, I had more than one professor tell me I needed to push the creative writing side of me back in to focus on the analytical writing. As Victor Hugo once said, “A writer is a world trapped in a person.” When you have the heart and soul of a writer, you have an instinctual urge to bring to life the world you’ve created inside your own head. You’ve got a story, and you want to tell it.

But what’s the best way to do that? I say, with your characters. A world where every person was the same would be pretty boring, and so would a book without well-developed characters. Here are some of my tips for breathing life into your characters and making them unique.

1. Consider their motivations for their actions, and extrapolate on that.

We all do what we do for a reason. Sometimes we know that reason, and other times we have no idea why. Our job as writers is to make sure our readers understand our characters and their motivations. Is your character motivated by greed? A childhood dream? The good of mankind? Get deep inside the head of your own characters so that your readers can, too.

2. Develop their relationships.

Just as much as what’s going on inside the character’s head, it’s also important to focus on what goes on outside their head too, like how they interact with their friends, family, significant others, etc. How we treat others often says more about ourselves than it does about them, and your characters relationships with others is a great way to develop their own character.

3. Use descriptive movements.

We all have little quirks, and many of them are physical. For example, I have this little thing where sometimes, after saying something emphatically, I softly go “hmm” under my breath. I also stick out my tongue and bite it a little when I am laughing very hard. People have pointed it out so many times, but I never even know I am doing it. Consider your character’s physical tics, how they walk, how often they make eye contact, if they blink a lot, etc.

There are many, many ways you can bring your characters to life so that they jump of the page, but those are my top three.

Do you have advice on how to add characterization to your characters? Let me know in the comments!


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