Character Tips with Natalie

I was sitting at my computer awhile ago as I tried to think of what I should emphasize for this month. It finally came to me that the topic should be on one shortcoming that bothers me most in any story, poem, or even song: character underdevelopment. Many beautiful stories, poems, and pieces can feel incomplete without strong character development and connections. I can recall times where I’ve felt a deficiency when it came to characters. I’ll be left disoriented like something is missing, bored with the story, or even confused with certain parts of a plot. Here are some helpful tips I’ve collected over time about this imperative topic:

Avoid stereotypical characters.
Honestly, this is such a drawback when creating your character. It’s almost an easy way out to create a character that follows a silly stereotype. For example, a rich man who owns 22 sports cars and walks into the supermarket with tailored suits on all the time. There’s nothing unique or fascinating about that character so far, and it would be a bore to have a whole story with a bad lacking of description and individuality. This is just one example of possible hundreds that prove stereotype characters are wholly uninteresting.

Keep the reader interested.
I can’t even list the amount of stories (many were amateur) that had a character who never changed or had any sort of advance in the piece. I get bored quickly when I feel like a story is going nowhere, and a character that sits idle for too much time definitely doesn’t help. To avoid this, try to incorporate life-changing events, character epiphanies, and small-scale personality changes during the whole story. It not only helps you as a writer to develop the character, but it keeps the story feeling fresh.

Everyone has a backstory.
You’ve probably heard this before, but I can’t emphasize it enough. I used to fall short on this subject when I began writing, and it became more and more obvious to me that my stories often lacked backstory. History and backstory fill the gaps of a book or poem and levels out a plot. The reader may become more involved and attached to that person on an intimate level, thus escalating the emotional effects of your story. Character backstory can also be used within the story to grab the reader’s attention and add extra excitement to any tale.

Plain or perfect characters are boring.
If you’ve been writing or reading fiction for any extended period of time, then you probably have met a few plain/boring or unrealistically perfect characters. There is such a thing as overdoing it, and making a character too plain/gloomy/boring that he or she becomes a waste of space. The overly perfect character (always does everything right, happy all the time) often is so distracting that the reader (like myself) just wants to skip over any sentence involving the annoyingly immaculate character. It’s unrealistic because everyone has flaws. However, it is possible to make a gloomy character exciting and an overly-happy and ambitious one interesting. This may be where backstory comes into play, or outside influences makes them imperfect or intriguing in their own special style.


Posted on February 17, 2016, in Editorial Board Essay. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I actually really needed this; I wanted to hop back into my novel writing and I had been looking for some pointers. Good post!

  2. This is really helpful! I will definitely use these when I’m writing. 🙂

  3. These were some great tips, I always struggle with these sometimes. I especially loved that you put in that every character has a backstory, such an important thing to remember!

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