Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#181) -- Memorable Characters

What makes characters memorable?

I've found that there are two tools in your writers kit to help you write memorable characters, regardless of the genre in which you're writing.

1. You character MUST be driven by a yearning for something specific. 

Inigo Montoya wants the six-fingered man. The Prisoner wants to escape. The Fugitive wants to prove his innocence.

This must be specific, not abstract. A "peaceful life" just won't cut it, but a "peaceful retirement from a life of killing to enjoy with his new wife" is more to the point and worth fighting for.

2. You character needs to have incidental traits. 

Kojak sucked a lollipop. Sheldon cries out "Bazingo." Indiana Jones hates snakes.

You get the point.

These incidentals can become plot points, but they don't have to. They primarily make your characters more real. I store these kind of details in my head when I notice them in real people I encounter, but I know other writers who actually keep a journal of these observations.