Characters are people, and like people, they should have unique qualities to them that help them stand apart from anyone around them. This might be a bad habit, or a particular turn of phrase, but something should help your characters stand out. A quirk or a habit they have.
Building these quirks and habits doesn’t need to be hard. It also makes characterization easier when you have a bank of features to fall back on for each character.
As an exercise: To help you build a bank of features, make a list of characters you want to flesh out more and answer these questions:
- What’s one bad habit they have?
- What’s one item they always have on them?
- What do they call their grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents? Which set of grandparents gets fun names like Grammy and Gramps, and which ones get Grandad and Grandmom?
- What is their favorite treat?
- What do they do when they’re nervous? (Think about this one carefully, some people stammer, others fidget, and some people even flush when they’re nervous. Your characters should reflect this.)
- How do they react to being shouted at suddenly? (Again, think about this, but don’t forget to reflect on their background. Someone who’s been abused will react very differently to someone who’s grown up in a safe, noisy household).
- What are they likely to collect? Books, stamps, figurines, coins, stuffed animals, etc.
- What do they usually say to greet someone?
- What do they say when they’re saying goodbye to a friend?
- How do they communicate affection without speaking?
If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you probably already know that sprints are one of my absolute favorite tools. They’re especially useful when you don’t have a lot of time to sit and write.
Sprints are easy to set up. Get a timer and set it for however long you like. Five, ten and fifteen minute sprints are ideal, but you can set longer sprints between twenty and forty-five minutes if you want (you may see these longer sprints referred to as ‘marathons’). Then, just sit and write as fast as you can.
The best part of a sprint is that you don’t have time to sit and think about word choice, ro sentence structure. The idea isn’t to get a good paragraph down, it’s strictly to get something down for later.
As an option: If you choose to, you can track to see how many words you can write in a given time. Start by writing your current word count down, and then doing a sprint. Mark down how many words you end up with, and subtract how many words you started with. The end result is how many words you’ve written during your sprint.
Sprints are great for friendly competitions as well. If you have a group, set a timer and go. Who can get the highest count? Who can work in the most puns in?