Tips to Make Characters Real: Write Strong


Tips to Make Characters Real: Write Strong

Readers are looking for strong stories and narratives they can relate to; descriptive details are the driver. Readers want to meet our characters. It’s up to us to shape characters by describing the details of what they are doing, smelling, hearing, seeing, touching or tasting.

To make characters relatable and lively, choose the details that distinguish them. Ask, what makes that character catch attention? How can I give the reader more information that develops their impression of the character? Is he shy? How will I express his shyness, self-importance or anger?  Does she choose to wear a pantsuit or colorful huge flower beachwear? Describe how people react when they see or speak to him or her.

Bring the reader into the scene with emphasis. Does a fierce black dog charge him while rides his bike on the trail? Is a knock on the front door frightful and foreboding? How do people act when anywhere near his cigar smoke that chokes them? Oh, fresh baked bread at the coffee shop! Let’s go, s'il vous plaît!

Details will be brief if a character has a minor role in the story, but it may grow as the story unfolds.

I’ve heard about the fun practice of preparing a word basket (or jar) filled with scraps of paper—one word per scrap. The basket could become your go-to place for inspiring creative descriptions in a story or metaphor: paradox or poem. What words catch your attention? Grab it and add it to your basket. Consider sensory adjectives, strong verbs, and nouns. Here are some: flood, moon, glow, crack, sputter, knock, blossom, mirror, distort, dominate, negate, underpin, float, sink, water, precipice, or crag. Have fun; pull a random page from your dictionary to get started. My fav right now is s'il vous plaît.

Things easy to do— but best to avoid:
•    Beware of description dumps.
•    Traveling tangents—Stay on point.
•    Slowing down your story or narrative—Use whatever works for moving it forward.

Book suggestions for descriptive writing growth:
•    Understanding Show, Don’t Tell, by Janice Hardy
•    Make a Scene, by Jordan Rosenfeld
•    Word Painting, by Rebecca McClanahan

Earlier Post links in this series—Descriptive Writing for Fiction and Non-Fiction:
Tips for Character Driven Description:

Senses & POV Tips:

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her writer’s website at:   
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Available on Amazon --- Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love
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lastpg said...

Hi Deborah, thank you for the great tips on making our work more exciting! I especially like your idea of the word basket. I think I'll try it to keep the creative juices flowing.

Karen Cioffi said...

Deborah, there are very helpful tip for bring characters to life. I agree with Linda, love the 'basket' idea. Thanks for sharing.

Jams and Books said...

Thank you very much! I used to tell writing students to reread and put one finger down for each sense used on one hand, and the others for who, what, when where, and why. It is easy to forget, though. This is a good reminder. I would like to hear more about show don’t tell.

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