Character Isn’t Just Personality
Character Isn’t Just Personality

By: Jilian Whitehead

Too often when we develop the characters in our stories, we focus too much on personality. If you read a book, you might be told that the character is smart or friendly or reckless, but how often do you know what their likes and dislikes are? What do they do in their leisure time? What are their hobbies (hobbies plural!)?

Recently, in a lot of stories I’ve read, I know the character’s basic personality and maybe one thing they enjoy doing, but I really have no other grasp on who they are. In developing strong and realistic characters, it’s important to know all the little details. How do they like their pizza? Do they have a set of favorite phrases they like to use? What’s a movie they would never recommend to someone, and what’s one they’ll gush about?

Knowing these small things can go a long way in making your character memorable to the readers. And, of course, this doesn’t just go for main characters. If your story has a large cast, then giving minor characters one or two concrete details can help your reader remember who they are. Maybe the pizza deliverer always wears an orange tie or the new coworker drinks her tea in a floral-printed cup.

Think of someone you know in your real life. You’re probably not just thinking of how they’re caring or that they’re annoying . . . some specific details might pop up in your head, such as how you find the way they use emojis in every conversation endearing or how it always irritates you when they chew on their fingernails.

So, if you’re feeling like your cast is weak, but you’re not sure why, try hammering out some of these things. How do they like to eat their meals? What’s their morning routine? What’s something they’d easily say in front of friends, but never with family? And so on. Good luck!

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