|Photo credit: magia3e on Flickr|
So without further ado, I give you ten foolproof secrets to writing captivating characters. You can thank me later.
10 Secrets for Extraordinary Character-Writing Success*:
- Don’t introduce any characters in the first chapter. When a reader picks up a book, they aren't immediately ready to meet a new character. The most important thing is to ground them in the world of your book. Spend the first chapter describing the grass, the political system, the language and laws, but don’t even THINK about introducing a character until the second chapter (you’re thinking about it, aren't you? Stop that. Stop that right now).
- Epic. Names. No one wants to read about a character named Jimmy Brown. Horationitus Mooncloud Bloodbone on the other hand, makes for a very interesting character name. Bonus points if you can’t pronounce it.
- For character inspiration, consult Stereotypes-R-Us. Readers are already accustomed to seeing stereotypical characters, and thus are immediately attracted to them. Don’t shy away from using stereotypical characters—embrace them like a baby panda cuddling with its mother. There’s no faster way to scare readers away than writing characters who break the mold.
- Make your villain bald. With a (preferably twirly) mustache. No one will take him seriously if he has a full head of hair and no mustache to twirl around his finger while coming up with a maniacal plan to destroy the world with his death ray (because every villain worth his salt has a death ray. It’s part of the job description).
- Make your hero flawless. Unless your protagonist looks like a child of Persephone, has a genius IQ and a heart of gold, your readers will immediately reject him. The hero must be perfect in every way, because no one wants to read about a character with actual flaws.
- Only bad guys make mistakes. Just like the real world.
- Include a Mary Sue in every novel you write. As they say, write what you know—and who knows how to write you better than you do? That’s what I thought.
- Make sure everyone sounds the same. You don’t want to confuse your readers with varied voices. If you take away all of the dialogue tags and you can’t tell who says what just by the way they say it, then you know you've succeeded.
- Use cardboard cut-out minor characters. They’re not really important, anyway, so no need to bother developing them. Besides, you don’t want them to distract your readers from the main plot and the other, more important characters like Horationitus.
- Kill them all in the end. You don’t want to leave your readers lying awake at night wondering about your characters’ futures, do you? I didn't think so. Spare them the worry and just kill them all off in the end. As a bonus, it makes for a memorable last page. (As a double bonus, give Horationitus some epic last words).
*= Oh, the sarcasm! Please don’t do any of these things. Your readers (and Horationitus) will thank you.
So there you have it—the secrets to writing brilliant characters. What would you add to the list?