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Create memorable characters instead of cardboard cutouts

As writers, we don’t want characters who are empty shells, cardboard cutouts. As young adult author Libba Bray says, “You don’t want characters to be blank slates filled in by the reader.”

Author of Beauty Queensand Going Bovine to name a few, Bray spoke at the 40th annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Aug. 5-8.

It’s hard to create a plot with interesting twists if your characters are boring and don’t react in interesting ways, she said. So how do you create compelling characters? Try these techniques:

  • Read, read, and read some more. Read outside your comfort zone. You may find a new twist on a character who has been around a long time. Even read bad stuff. It’s instructive. If a story isn’t grabbing you, ask why.
  • Question assumptions, stereotypes and stock characters. Round characters aren’t black and white. Villains don’t think of themselves as villains. They aren’t all good or all bad.
  • Ask your characters what they want and what they would do to get it. What would they not do? What fears or other aspects of their lives would prevent them from getting what they want? social class? Race? Parents?

Exercise. Stuck on how to write a character? Grab a notebook and get to know your characters by asking these questions:

  • What songs would this character love? Make a music playlist for your book and for each character.
  • What makes your characters cry or laugh?
  • What is your character’s biggest secret?
  • What is your character saying versus thinking?

To learn more about Libba Bray, visit her website.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Ruth #

    very interesting

    August 10, 2011

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