Novel Writing: Creating a Cast of Characters

Creating a cast of characters for your novel? Free tips on characterization from our staff in honor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)!

Hello writers!

Hopefully, you’re each waist-deep in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you haven’t started yet, or have fallen off the wagon just a bit, just jump right back on! The only thing standing between you and a finished novel is your hesitation. And you, sweet writer, have nothing to lose!

As you pound away at your 1,667 words per day, start thinking about characterization. That may sound like a complicated term to some, but it’s simply the process of creating characters in your story. Give them depth, quirks, and their own unique imprint in the storyline. There are a few key ways in which you can create characters with distinct personalities and nuances.

So what IS characterization?

  • Motivation - what motivates them? What makes them tick?
  • Experience - how do their experiences shape their viewpoints and reactions?
  • Self-image - what is in their mirror? How do they see themselves within the unfolding of the plotline?
  • Speech patterns - what is their voice? How do they speak? Curtly, or in rich, long, languid sentences? Is their vocabulary indicative of a certain region or country?

Create character profiles.

Does your character resemble someone you’ve watched in a movie or someone you know in real life? Print out a picture of that person. Begin jotting adjectives around the sides of the page: impatient, fast-talker, warm, bubbly, touchy-feely, distant and aloof. Jot down pieces of their story, background, habits, and mannerisms. All of these details don’t have to make their way into the story; pick those that are important and weave them in. At the end of the writing process, sort through conversations and interactions. Are your depictions of each character consistent throughout your story with the character's profile?

One last tip: characterization through dialogue cannot be overly emphasized. If the dialogue is saturated with enough personality that I can tell which character is speaking without seeing them named, it’s a job well done.

What are you waiting for? Get to typing! We can't wait to see the finished product.

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