Rather, layer in what he looks like through dialogue and during the action. Readers often have trouble differentiating one character from another, so if you can give him a tag, in the form of a unique gesture or mannerism, that helps set him apart. The better acquainted you are with your character, the better your readers will come to know him and care.
Even superheroes have flaws and weaknesses. For swashbucklers like Indiana Jones, there are snakes. A lead character without human qualities is impossible to identify with. They should be forgivable, understandable, identifiable. Be careful not to make your hero irredeemable — for instance, a wimp, a scaredy cat, a slob, a dunce, or a doofus like a cop who forgets his gun or his ammunition.
You want a character with whom your reader can relate, and to do that, he needs to be vulnerable. Create events that subtly exhibit strength of character and spirit.
For example, does your character show respect to a waitress and recognize her by name? Would he treat a cashier the same way he treats his broker? These are called pet-the-dog moments, where an otherwise bigger-than-life personality does something out of character—something that might be considered beneath him.
While striving to make your main character real and human, be sure to also make him heroic or implant within him at least the potential to be heroic. In the end, after he has learned all the lessons he needs to from his failures to get out of the terrible trouble you plunged him into, he must rise to the occasion and score a great moral victory. He can have a weakness for chocolates or a fear of snakes, but he must show up and face the music when the time comes. A well-developed character should be extraordinary, but relatable.
Never allow your protagonist to be the victim. It is certainly okay to allow him to face obstacles and challenges, but never portray him as a wimp or a coward. What physically happens in the novel is one thing. Your hero needs trouble, a problem, a quest, a challenge, something that drives the story. This will determine his inner dialogue. Growing internally will usually contribute more to your Character Arc than the surface story.
Mix and match details from people you know — and yourself — to create both the inner and outer person. The fun of being a novelist is getting to embody the characters we write about. I can be a young girl, an old man, a boy, a father, a grandmother, another race, a villain , of a different political or spiritual persuasion, etc.
The list goes on and the possibilities are endless. The best way to develop a character is to, in essence, become that character.
Imagine yourself in every situation he finds himself, facing every dilemma, answering every question—how would you react if you were your character? If your character finds himself in mortal danger, imagine yourself in that predicament. Think back to the last time you felt in danger, multiply that by a thousand, and become your character.
What ran through your mind when you believed you were home alone and heard footsteps across the floor above? A well-written novel that follows a Classic Story Structure plunges its main character into terrible trouble quickly, turns up the heat, and fosters change and growth in the character from the beginning. But every reader can relate to a flawed character who faces obstacles that force him to change.
How does your character respond to challenges? Does he learn from them or face the same obstacle repeatedly because he fails to recognize his mistakes? Give your readers credit by trusting them to deduce character qualities by what they see in your scenes and hear in your dialogue. As the life of your character unfolds, show who your character is through what he says, his body language, his thoughts, and what he does. Would rather be told: Fritz was one of those friendly, gregarious types who treated everyone the same, from the powerful to the lowly.
Telling: What You Need to Know. Imagination can take you only so far. But you can bet the first time you guess at something, astute readers will call you on it. For instance, I can imagine myself as a woman.
I had a mother, I have a wife, I have daughters-in-law and granddaughters, a female assistant, women colleagues. I recently ran into an old friend who told me she was homeless. But women in my orbit said, sure, they could see it.
Camouflaging your predicament and maintaining a modicum of self-respect would be worth skipping a few meals. I hope you would only be guessing about such a horror, but to write about it with credibility takes thorough research.
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