By Kenneth Shumaker
June 29, 2017
How do I design characters that are readable and enjoyable?
Who was the most memorable character you’ve read? Was it in a journal, fiction piece, or non-fiction? Were you engaged in the story or were you only focused on the character? I suspect that your most memorable character suffered loss or pain or was overcoming hardship. The character probably developed or changed somehow by the end of the piece. I’m betting they weren’t the same person at the end of the piece as they were at the start of the story. My memorable character is Shrek, as I can identify with the introvert in him and his need for solitude, and as the story went on, I felt his frustration with his love for Fiona as well.
In my favourite stories, the plot is engaging as it builds along with a compelling character or set of characters, and I become emotionally attached to the character(s). As the story progresses, I become engaged with the story, and I begin to know the character(s) and care about them. In some stories, I can personally identify with a character.
This is the how you should design your characters. You should write compelling emotionally charged characters for the reader to become attached to. Compelling characters are gradually described in regards to appearance and personality. You provide your readers with a bit of character description in the first chapter of your story to introduce your character. As the story progresses, you delve more into the psyche of the character, so that the readers become attached. You do this through moments in the plots and subplots of each chapter or page building up the character and showing us their reactions. In following chapters or pages show us the conflicts that tear the character apart emotionally and maybe even harm them physically, while showing us their reactions to these situations.
So, what is a compelling character? They have a physical body and personality, like a real world being. So, show to the reader what they look like. How tall are they? How heavy? What are their proportions? ‘Show’ me their facial features such as hair and eye colour, nose shape, and eye and mouth size and shape. Describe to me their hair style – length and colour. What do they typically wear? In a particular situation are they wearing something different? Describe clothing features in small portions throughout the text, not in a single paragraph data dump.
You can portray the character’s psyche or personality by describing some of their reactions to both positive and negative events and situations. Immerse your reader into the character’s lives as they live it, so the reader can connect with the character and feel part of their life.
I have provided you with the basics. Also, you could include family or friend interactions that may be necessary for the plot. But not too much, as you do not want to distract from the troupes of the plot and subplots of the story.
This is my guide to you, the writer. May you create compelling and emotionally interesting characters in your stories.
Sincerely yours, Kenneth Shumaker.
© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press.
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About the author: Kenneth Shumaker
Following a long break from writing, Kenneth recovered his passion for writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy genre author with Inevitable Unicorn Press (InUPress) as well as a non-fiction author. Kenneth has been blogging with the Owerton Challenge and other blogs for many years. He now writes several serial short stories each month. Kenneth’s two businesses, his wife, his two children, and his six grandchildren keep him busy.
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