Reading with Intent: Characterization

This post is going to be relatively short because it’s a simple concept. Whenever you read a novel or watch a movie/TV show, grab a pen and take notes about the main character. What is their major flaw? What is the underlying reason they do what they do?

In short, here are a few specific things to look for:
How does the author introduce the character’s background? Is it in flashbacks? Little details lying around their house? Conversations with others?
How does the character react to the different people around them? Are they nice to everyone or only certain people?
What do they do in response to stress? Conflict is some sort of stress on the main character. How do they react when that stress seems to strangle them?

Now take a character you feel you know well and write their background. Include as many details as you know that are true and fill in the gaps based on their personality. Many of the characters we’ve come to know and love have much more below the surface, we just never see it because we, as the reader, don’t need to know all of those details. However, you as the writer do.

Before you begin your next project make sure you reveal everything you can about your main character to yourself. Write a detailed history that leads up to the point where your story starts. You may use some of this later, and you may not. Regardless, you will develop a believable character that your audience can relate to, and that’s one of the most important parts of storytelling.

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