‘Last week, I discussed how to introduce your character in the first few lines. This week, I look at rounding out your character by adding layers of characterisation.
Before we look at examples, let’s consider some theory:
1. Show, don’t tell: when it comes to characterisation, it’s critical that you show the reader who your character is, and not tell. An effective way to do this is to use dialogue and action in a scene, but it doesn’t stop there. You can add details about a character’s appearance, manner, spaces, and possessions.
2. Appearance: how does your character dress, what accessories does she wear, and how well groomed is she?
3. Manner: how does your character interact with the world around him? Think of his speech, gestures, gait, and any habitual movements he may have.
4. Spaces: what does your character’s house look like? Her office? Her bathroom cabinet? Her fridge? Think about virtual spaces too – what does her Facebook profile or Instagram account look like?
5. Possessions: this is less about the possessions in your character’s spaces, and more about his relationship to certain possessions. What is your character’s favourite possession, and why? What does he always take with him when he leaves home? Include significant details only: as writers, we want to create real characters. We need to be careful, though. There’s a fine balance between creating a rounded character, and boring readers with the minutiae of your character’s life. To avoid the latter, pick only those details that pack the biggest characterisation punch, and then weave them skilfully into your story. It’s a bit like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for your readers to follow.
Create interplay between these elements: it’s not only the individual elements of appearance, manner, spaces, and possessions that are effective in showing who a character is, but the interplay between them.’
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