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Cracked Characters

Teenagers often find themselves reminiscing about fictional characters. Wishing they were a book character moseying along a forgotten trail, stepping over withering stone and diverging into the depths of a fantasy land so unlike their own bored reality. There’s a reason why our society is drawn to characters in books. They’re mysterious, fictionalized so vividly it speaks to us more than our safe reality can. We succumb to the idea that we will never be like the character we grew up reading or writing, we convince ourselves the books that are sold are good because of the impossibility of their plots. Prose that reads like poetry following tragic stories about feigned love, the art of dying.


But something that makes a story, something you have to have regardless of genre, is a character. The protagonist of your story, the narrator that catapults you into a whirlwind of shaky plotlines and creaky plot twists. They’re the ones who allow you into their world with vivid imagery that seem to dance off the page like jittered ballerinas. However, they are usually the most difficult part of the creative writing process. So here are a few tips and tricks to help you come up with real, raw, complex characters that will make your audience thirsty for more: 

1. People Watch 

It sounds silly. But the next time you’re out and about, whether you’re sitting on a park bench or walking the school halls, study strangers' mannerisms. The way their lips move when they talk, the tone of their voice, the shakiness of their joints. Learn the human body the way it was meant to be learned; by observation. 

2. Re-read your favorite books 

Re-read your favorite literature and study the characters that make up the story. Why did they react in the way they did? What internal conflict are they facing? Historically, the

the best writers are often the biggest readers. Educate yourself amongst the literature that surrounds you, it’s often the best guide. 

3. Show, NEVER tell! 

If characters are coming out piece boring, flat and ordinary, make sure to show their behaviors, their quirks and unique traits that make up their individuality. Example of SHOW: “Clutching the leather strap of her bag, she stumbled over her scrunched toes. Walking into the skyscraper she’s hurried past her whole life, the butterflies erupted like sour candy from her guts.” → This shows the character's nervousness, rather than just talking about her anxiety. 

4. Relationships 

We are made up of the people that surround us. Without human connection, we would have very little. So explore how characters relate to the people around them. Describe their family dynamic, give insight in their romantic relations, talk about their past friendships and how they interact with the public. 

5. Purposeful Physical Descriptions 

When describing your character's physical appearance, make sure you pick things that tell the audience a little bit more about your character. Example: “Her hair was as red as the silk on her lips, auburn red and fiery like the tattoos erupting from the chilled veins of her arms.” This vivid description suggests that this character is fiery, different in her appearance. Her difference suggests that she may be unique in other ways as well, but the audience will only find out if they keep reading…

Remember, your characters are what makes or breaks stories. Make sure to incorporate these tasks into your daily writing scene. Take inspiration from your favorite movie or book characters, study the author's writing styles to get a good feeling as to how they write characters. We all start somewhere, make it count!

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