Depth of Character:
Character Focus (protagonist/antagonist)
NOTE: YOU DO NOT have to have a “hero/villain” in your story. This is only if you decide you want to have them. And yes, I’m adding a new creation of Antivillain because it’s important that people are able to have characters who are complex.
The depth of your character is crucial for your readers to feel any emotion toward them. Even if they only ever utter one word, you can make them fall in love with their affable nature. Their kindness, their mercy, their evilness, their cruelty; it’s in the palm of your hands to morph your characters into the goodies or baddies that you choose.
There are specific areas that are also important, like the scenery, the time, place, plot evolution pieces, arc, etc. that you need to deal with, but establishing your characters and placing them in their rightful niche of the story will help you set the tone of everything else. Once you have the characters, their depth can help you create the world your readers will want to escape to time and again.
Here’s the tricky part: finding words you want to describe your character with, but are unique enough to not sound too common or boring.
Let’s look at examples to show you how to develop a character:
- Nia is a cat.
- Nia is a brown cat.
- Nia is a brown Maine Coon cat.
- Nia is a long haired, brown Maine Coon cat.
- Nia is a lynx-pointed eared, brindle marked, luxuriously silky long-haired Maine Coon cat.
- Nia is the sleek, graceful, elegantly brindle-marked, lynx-eared Maine Coon. She is an eight year old rescue from Brooklyn, NY, and has more diva in her than most show stoppers on Broadway.
See how quickly you can create a backdrop of just a single character in less than a paragraph? That will stay with your readers.
You don’t have to break out a dictionary to find the longest words possible that might fit. If you have a word in mind, use your thesaurus (or one online) and pick a word YOU KNOW and USE but is different than the one you’re thinking of.
If you don’t, you’ll end up sounding wordy and pompous.
Let’s take another look at a sentence, and this time, tweak it with good choices and bad ones.
He was an honest politician.
Tweaked for a nicer, richer feeling, that gives proper weight to the right areas, and doesn’t overdo the explanation. You “get” how honest he is, because you can tangibly understand what the words are trying to convey.
He displayed a level of honesty that was seldom seen amongst fellows in his profession.
Although you’ll understand the following sentence, it’s a mouthful and it seems contrived.
His scrupulous, authentic, conscientious, and veraciously penultimate level of ethics gave him the advantage, dominance, and superiority over his reciprocal nominated candidates.
Wow, where do you start to floss with that sentence, eh?
Just because you know a word, doesn’t mean you have to use it in a sentence.
Remember, you want readers. write for them, not your ego.
Keep in mind, not everyone has your vocabulary, and when people have to stop to figure out what you mean, you do yourself the injustice of stoppering the flow of the read. There are enough distractions in your readers’ worlds; you want to be the escape for them, not another annoyance in their day. I have put down books that are trivially overstuffed with words. Words I know the meanings of, but are just there to make a count at the end of a spreadsheet somewhere. The days of Dickens are done. He was a literary genius in his own right, and I don’t fault him for how or why he wrote the way he did, but I will say that taking 14 pages to write about one glass of wine and beer is not only exhausting to read, decades later, it’s the only part of the book I really recall. (It also might be because I stopped reading Tale of Two Cities at that very point, because COME ON, 14 pages about a drink?) ((I did love Oliver Twist though, and many of his other deliciously well written pieces. I used to know most of David Copperfield by heart when I was younger.))
The point is, write HOW you know words. If you’re describing a flower, use words that conjure images of a flower, not some other image your reader has to try to imagine is a flower. Describing the petals with a velvety soft feel is one thing; explaining that the leaves have a tartan-green tone to them is going to confuse your readers.
In part 6, we’re going to look at some specifics on how not to drive away readers, and how to find even more depth and expression in your characters. Scenery and other goodies will be in part 7.
5.5 is going to have 10 Q’s for you to answer about each character.