There is nothing worse than a two dimensional Mary-Sue character. For those of you who don’t know, a Mary-Sue, or a Marty Stu if they are male. (Here is a link to a test to see if your character is a Mary-Sue: http://www.ponylandhttp://www.ponylandpress.com/ms-test.html
Here is another one: http://www.katfeete.nehttp://www.katfeete.net/writing/marysue.html
Real people might not be able to do a lot of things fictional ones can do, but we need to be able to relate to them, all the same. Many of us wouldn’t be able to survive the Hunger Games (if they existed); we can’t speak to the dead- I hope- and our dreams of being a spy will stay that- merely a dream. But we want to be able to experience all of these things through book characters. I will be giving advice on how to write a three dimensional generic character.
|Pic found on lynmidnight.blogspot.co.uk
The first thing we notice when we meet new people is the way they look. It is usually the same for fictional characters. The exception to this rule may be those creepy buggers who take their times to reveal themselves. So here are the typical features that should be included:
- Hair colour and style
- Eye colour
- Skin colour/ tone
It is important to avoid cliches like ‘ice cold blue eyes’, ‘swan-like neck’, ‘porcelain skin’, ‘burly’ physique, and ‘teeth like pearls’. Try to also refrain from repeating yourself, especially if you going to describe two different characters the same way. For example, two characters may both have green eyes and you describe them both as having bright emerald eyes. Maybe one should have emerald eyes, and the other can having twinkling green eyes, or hazel eyes. Identical twins is in my opinion a valid exception.
Stereotypes are a good way of quickly getting across a character’s personality, especially minor, extra characters that will not be a big part of your story. At my old high school, we had the group labelled ‘the chavs’. They typically carry Blackberry phones, wear hoodies, walk around together in fairly large groups (preferably with a swagger), being somewhat intimidating. They tended to wear headphones, caps, and wore trainers against the school dress code regulations. Their shirts were untucked or they wore jumpers to cover that up. Their ties were short and thick, usually four stripes instead of the acceptable eight or above. They thought they were ‘hard’. They were usually just a nuisance. But this was just their exterior. As many characters are, they were never usually what they appeared to be.
It might be interesting to have a character that goes agains convention. Maybe your character meets a huge scary looking monster that ends up being the best friend they never thought they would have. Or maybe you could have that innocent small school girl tho can kick some major ass. Appearances can be deceiving, so use it to your advantage.
Everyone speak differently, depending on your language, where you live and often who you are speaking to. Describing speech is not always easy and it can be years until you master dialogue. A child’s biggest problem is finding synonyms to the word ‘said’. My advice? Use that word as sparingly as possible. It is a horrible word that doesn’t really tell a reader anything. That said [oh my gosh, I used the word], I am not condoning the repetition of other words. Use yelled instead of shouted sometimes, barked instead of argued, chirped instead of ‘said happily’. Invest in a thesaurus if you have to, or better yes, use the internet. You have no excuse.
People say things differently too. You get some old fashioned characters that will always say ‘do not’ instead of ‘don’t’, ‘will not’ instead of ‘won’t’ or ‘ain’t’. Back to my ‘chav’ stereotype:
Typical phrases my friend and I would use to make fun of ‘chavs’ were:
- ‘Come den bruv’
- ‘I’m gonna bang you’
- ‘Ooooh! You got void!’
- ‘In it doh’
The phrases were a language all their own. It was a slang that many people used actually, not always just the typical ‘chavs’. And what is a ‘chav’ anyway? Well that was never made clear. So when you write about your characters, think about what type of person they would be. Royal characters might use bigger, more complicated words, whilst school children might use slang from time to time. It is always a good idea to listen out to people in conversations to get an idea of what dialogue is really like. Remember that people also talk with their hands, using all kinds of gestures. And think about the emotion behind the words.
Part three and four of this topic will most likely be out later this week.