Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Get a Life by Morgan Mandel

When someone is too bossy or nosy, have you ever said, "Get a life?"

Why? Because that person is concentrating on yours, instead of his or her own?

As a writer, when crafting your characters, make sure they get a life. To keep them from being cardboard cutouts, they need to be stand out in their own right. How do you achieve this?

Here are some ways:

GMC - goal, motivation and conflict. Give your characters real wants and needs, reasons for wanting them, then throw in roadblocks to thwart them from achieving their goals.

Give your characters certain speech patterns. You might not expect a church-going old lady to swear, but you could expect that language from a teenager. That said, if that same little old lady gets boxed into a corner, to dramatize a situation, you could have her break down and let loose with a string of profanities she's never dreamed she'd ever use. Afterwards, she'd be just as shocked as the reader. You could also give characters favorite words they like to use.

Other ways to give your characters lives would be to emphasize unique ways of dressing, particular hobbies, or identifying habits. A character who enjoys black coffee seems more straightforward and down to earth than one who takes cream and sugar, or maybe a latte'.

Can you think of other ways to give life to characters? Or, examples of how you've achieved this in one of your novels? Or, maybe how someone else has done it? Please share.

If you liked this post, you may want to wander over to Double M at to learn how we follow the leader.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I am a big fan of “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer and her take on the four basic personality types. After a little planning with a character's background, including his sibling ranking, I select the personality type that would suit them best. This helps make character reations unique.

I also consider a character's self esteem, as that will affect actions, traits and interests as well. I love a character with a crappy self-image, as I can use his life to display this trait!

L. Diane Wolfe

L. Diane Wolfe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen Ginger said...

One way is to look at how your characters interact with others. When asked a question, do they respond to the question? Do they ignore the question and tell you whatever they want to get across (think politicians)? Do they tell you what they think you want to hear (think teenager to parent)? That's probably part of your "goal."

Cynthia Hernandez / cruizen4u said...

When I wrote my first novel I looked through to see if my characters had enough "character."
Then I had a friend edit a part of two of the three main characters. She told me that my characters had come alive for her.

Now that made me very happy because I am new to this. Even though I have been writing since I was thirteen years old. It is my first book. I am so excited...

Morgan Mandel said...

I've never had a baby, but we authors consider all our books our babies, and the first is always special.

Morgan Mandel

unwriter said...

That's why I like kritters. I can get in their head and think like them. that makes it easy to have them interact, appropriately with other kritters. My muse is a big help in this area.

Kim Smith said...

Shannon Wallace is a nail biter. She's had the habit since childhood and it rears its ugly head whenever she is under stress. Which happens a lot in my book. I think that is a good way to characterize her.