I would like to welcome Racheal Ritchey as the newest guest onto the blog. We began talking when I entered her, “Blog Battle Writing Contest,” a few weeks ago, and since then I have found her work wonderful. If you want to check out some samples of her writing you can click here. She has agreed to help me out by writing a guest post about charecterization, so I would really appreciate it if you could show her some love too. She is the author of The Beauty Thief and her newest release Captive Hope. Her writing is geared toward the YA crowd, but anyone can enjoy her work. So I don’t take too much of your time talking here is a little bit of information about Captive Hope:
The Twelve Realms seems an idyllic nation, but behind locked doors there are sinister powers at work. Not even the royal family of High Castle is outside their reach, and Lady Idra has unwittingly placed herself in the crosshairs of a shrewd mercenary. Though noble by birth and lady-in-waiting to her cousin, Princess Caityn, Idra has no consideration of her own worth or value. Sir Ahmad desperately loves her, but he may be too late. He could lose her forever when a mercenary employs a devious plot to gain revenge and riches by her ruin. If an ocean stands between them, will all hope be lost?
Characterization is about more than naming characters and running with it . . . although there is a little of that involved in the process! For me, the main characters of a story have to be fleshed out in more detail than the meaning behind the name or the setting in which they find themselves. To have true characterization present throughout your novel you must first get to know your character.
Some characters are truly good and noble people who may seem, at first glance, unreal or flat but are actually very deep and nuanced individuals.
Let’s focus in on one example. I’m particularly fond of Ahmad. He is a knight of the future High King’s elite guardsmen. He’s muscular and tall with thick waves of rich brown hair and eyes to match. But he’s more than that. My character doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t end with him being noble or good, either.
I had to ask myself a lot of questions about this man. He’s a deep thinker who had a love-hate relationship with his schooling at the monasey of Nevin. His father is only a gate keeper, yet Ahmad has risen in rank to stand next to a future king. That’s a big deal. How did it happen?
When not away at school he lived at the castle of Nevin with his parents, and as young boys are wont to do he played with other children his age. It just so happened that the young prince of Nevin was of similar age and ability. The two boys became unlikely friends, which gained Ahmad access to training and opportunities he might never have had–at least nothing beyond following in his father’s footsteps.
He is hardworking, full of passion, thoughtful, and loyal. While these are strengths they can also be weaknesses. Hardworking can equate to neglectful of relationships; Passion can cloud out better judgment; Thoughtfulness can lead to missed opportunities; Loyalty can blind a man to wrongdoing.
All of this plays into characterization. The meaning behind a name can play into the character’s personality as well. Ahmad’s name means ‘more commendable’ or ‘much praised’ and there is an aspect of it in how he sees the world.
The best way I’ve found to flesh out a character, to make him more than a name/description on a page, and ensure I know how he will act/ react to situations in my writing is to interview him. Another useful tool is to write out his back story. Both are helpful and reduce the chances of rambling on about how characters turned out the way they did with boring details your reader doesn’t really need, or horror-of-horrors, have them act out of character!
I utilize K.M. Weiland’s character interview, but there are several available across the internet. You can also write up your own.
And I’ll take this time to reiterate that even though we don’t usually need to add all the character back story into the plot of the novel, it’s a worthy endeavor for us to get to know the people we are writing about–what drives them, motivates them, and just plain pisses them off. If you know your character well you will characterize them in their speech and actions in such a way that your reader will get to know them, too.