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5 Tips to Making your Characters Unique

Developing characters is never simple, and how do you keep coming up with characters after you’ve written several books?  Sometimes it seems like the characters you are working on now are just further extensions of those people you created two stories ago.

Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.  Characters need to be as individual as the people you know. Certainly the people around you all have their individual characteristics that make you laugh, make you nuts and irritate you. 

Consider doing the same thing with your characters. Here are five tips to make them unique.

  1. Give them a flaw.  No one is perfect and your characters shouldn’t be either. Don’t make your hero so heroic that no one can relate to him. Give him a weak spot or a flaw that he can work on. Perhaps it is spending money or smoking too much. This can be something to keep that hero from being perfect. We don’t want perfect heroes who never make a mistake. At the same time, we don’t want a hero with such a nasty flaw they will never recover from it.  Make it simple, but give the character something to work on besides the main issue of the story.
  2. Give them a real life.  No one has the same sort of life, whether it is rescuing damsels in distress or just trying to survive day to day. Give the characters a real life that gets in  the way of the story or what the character is trying to accomplish. Does her mother constantly demand things of him or her? Does her brother constantly get in trouble and she has to stop her life to bail him out?
  3. Make your characters come alive through emotions. This is absolutely critical and one of the main ways to make all your characters unique.  Look for a range of emotions and determine how those emotional reactions will feed into how the character reacts to events in the story. Now you’re going to come up with a character who is different from every other cardboard character out there.
  4. Give your character a secret trait – something they might not even recognize at the beginning. Is she stronger than she realizes and only the test of the story makes her discover that hidden truth about herself? Bring that out. Show the character, first at her worst and then at her best. Or show her at her best before she realizes her worth and how that trait can turn the tide in her favor.
  5. Give your character a quirk. No, we are not talking about a flaw, as we did earlier. This is something different, something unique, yes, something quirky. Like what you ask? Well, what are those things that drive you crazy about the people around you? Does he tend to fall asleep at a moment’s notice? Does she always check the doors over and over to make certain they are locked? Does he not bother washing his coffee cup from the previous day, but just refill it until you take it and put it in the dishwasher? How about refusing to get rid of that old jacket he’s had for years? My Dad had a thing about cars, and he was constantly stopping at car lots when we drove through different towns, “just to check.” A few times we came home with a new car.
    This are all unique things that can make your characters different. They can make your characters someone memorable. Come up with some ideas of your own and then think about how to use them next time you develop a character.


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