More than Just a Pretty Face


My mother is a professional “people-watcher”. She loves to observe strangers. Growing up, her habit annoyed and embarrassed me. I didn’t want to be sitting with a woman who has a fetish for staring; but over time, I began to grasp the depth of her fascination. By observing, my mom is able to understand people without conversing. She notices things about them: their appearance, habits, small details a glance would never reveal. After several minutes, she hypothesizes the life-story of a complete stranger.

Imagine a Russian Nesting Doll and its many layers of ornate designs and emotions. First we see the largest and most prominent layer, usually a fat woman with big eyes and a bonnet. But as we remove each layer, we discover new aspects of the doll: different faces and sizes. And by the time we reach the core, we know everything the doll has to offer. We’ve seen the big, strong lady and her small, vulnerable center.

Although my mom’s staring habit and Russian Nesting Dolls do not have anything to do with writing, their concepts do relate with character-development. People have layers, so characters must have layers. They need to be more than just a pretty face.

I’ve been a die-hard reader for as long as I can remember. Literature is my passion. I love everything it offers; but my absolute favorite aspect of a book is its characters. If I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the book.

Things to remember:

–          People fall in love with people, not scenarios.

–          A description of a character is like a skeleton. It adds structure but the blood, organs, skin, and muscle are what bring the “body” to life. Personality-traits are the blood. Flaws are the organs. History is the skin. And small details and habits are what form the muscle.

–          Humans are imperfect. Characters need to be imperfect.

Here are some tips for crafting a memorable character:

  1. Take the time to write a bio for each of your characters. Include small details; their speech-habits, what they like and dislike, their aspirations. Practice writing conversations between you and your character. Interview them as if they’re actual people.
  2. Give your character a main flaw whether it’s pride, selfishness, or cowardice.

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