Get Some Character Sparkle

Monday, December 13, 2010
No, not like Edward Cullen sparkle-in-the-sunlight sparkle.

I'm talking about how do you take your characters from flat to three dimensional and dynamic?

First of all, look at writers who are great at characterization. Stephanie Meyer immediately comes to mind. Now you can say what you like about Twilight, but there are very few authors whose books inspire the debate that her characters do ("Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?"). Her characters had personalities that run the board from shy to overt and everything in between.

Have you ever noticed that Stephanie compares her characters to animals? If you think about it at all, you'll quickly realize that Edward is the powerful, sleek cougar who's trying not to eat the shy, wide-eyed doe (Bella).

The best writers use simple methods. This is one of them. Pick an animal avatar for your character. Is your hero a small, cunning fox? A powerful, roaring bear? A delicate and flighty bird?

Another method is to use personality colors. There are lots of different systems out there. I use Hartman. In a nutshell:

Red (the power wielders)
Blue (the do-gooders)
White (the peacekeepers)
Yellow (the fun lovers)

Everyone has one dominate and one or more passive traits.

In Witch Song:
Senna is a white blue
Joshen is a yellow blue

Senna is naturally shy and fearful. Her avatar is an abused dog. She longs to bond with someone, but she's been maltreated to much to trust. Joshen loves people and food . . . and well everything. He's the optimist of the two of them. He's always seeing adventure in and excitement in even mundane things.

Any guesses as to what his avatar is?

A monkey. *giggle*

See how much fun it is when you know a few tricks?

What tricks do you use?


  1. This is SO cool!

    I remember realizing that Meyer had compared her characters to animals. Very cool, and it worked. In Thirds, my evil mother is compared to a chicken. :)

  1. Oh, you fooled me with the sparkle! Not an Edward post, I see, but that's all good. I never thought of doing the animal comparison, but I try to get inside the head of my characters to see what makes them unique and tick.

  1. Oh, man, I need new tricks. I try to do something on a much simpler scale. (This is the shallow in me coming out.)

    I try to give them one very familiar, very human characteristic. (Like they're always late.) Something that a reader can understand and relate to easily.

    Then I try to give them one very not familiar, not human characteristic. Okay, not always not human, but a lot of the time. You know, like throwing fire or something. :)

    And I always make them messy (i.e. human). Or at least I try to.

  1. Michelle: It takes something super complex and simplifies it so you don't get overwhelmed.
    Lydia: Haha, sorry.
    Elana: I do the same thing. Each character needs a tic.

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