I admire how writers like Suzanne Brockmann can make characters who seem so real they practically step out of the book and shake your hand. They're like old friends by the time the book is done.
I was lucky enough to attend a chapter meeting on Saturday where another master writer, Linda Howard, presented a workshop on characterization. What she calls creating the character's voice (not to be confused with the writer's voice). Basically, learning to write so that your characters' personalities come through.
She took paragraphs sent in by chapter members, and added her own words to them to create a short scene that left no doubt of the character's world view. Were they sarcastic, lacking confidence, egotistical? She nailed it every time.
Her word choices made it clear how that character viewed the situation, gave them attitude, thoughts, and individuality
Along the way, she also gave some good tidbits of advice that I thought I'd pass along (in my own words).
- Don't be afraid to go off on tangents because those are what tell the reader about your character.
- Your word choice should be specific to each mood and character. The reader should be able to tell whose POV the scene is in, even if you leave their name out.
- Characterization is most important early on in the book when you're trying to capture and hold the reader's interest. The best plot in the world won't hold a reader if they don't care about the characters moving through it.
- Don't shortchange the emotion in a scene. If she loved it, tell us why. If he hated it, tell us why.
Writing characters who live and breath on the page is my number one goal. It's where I'll be concentrating my efforts in my MS, and in the Sunday Squirrel over the next few weeks. Good luck with your own efforts.