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Top Three Tips On Mastering Character Traits

As writers we are actively encouraged to portray a variety of characters, with varying shades of positive and negative traits. The characters may have different skills from us, they may have more or less qualifications, and they will have undoubtedly gone through experiences that we as the writer have not. If every character only echoed our own lives, mimicking the qualities we have, the story would fall flat.

One of my readers recently asked me a great question: Lorraine, do you think it’s OK for a writer to  attempt to portray a character with qualities the writer doesn’t have? For instance, I am not funny at all, but I would love a secondary character to have a sense of humor, which means there is a risk the character will sound lame rather than really funny. I have read a short story where the character was supposed to be wise, but the writer was not particularly wise, so the wisdom was on the ‘weak side’. Do you think it is better to stay away from qualities you do not possess or to try anyway?

As writers we need to portray meek, strong willed, sarcastic, funny, intelligent or even obsessive characters. It is inevitable that we will write a character we are not familiar with, and so, here are my;

Top three tips for mastering character traits.

Watch and listen to other people.

It’s not only what people say, but how they say it. Their tone and volume of voice add to the weight of the words spoken. Possibly more important will be what their body language says. It’s true, writers see the world through different eyes, because these subtle things need to be taken into account. We can make a character more funny by his antics and the response of his supporting characters.

Research the subject matter

There will come a point when we need to know more about a specialized subject matter, so that we accurately portray our character to our readers. Whether its about science, motor sports, mental health, how to fly an airplane, or simply how long it takes for a broken bone to heal. If you don’t do your research, there will be glaring holes in your story that your readers will pick up on.

Thankfully we have search engines at our fingertips, with a few clicks and the correct tag words we can pull up vast amounts of knowledge. So take the time to research, don’t just guess.

Alternatively, speak to people who know first hand what it’s like to be homeless, or to be a policewoman. Tell them you’re a writer doing research, and that you wish to portray your character with accuracy. They might be willing to help you.

Hone your craft.

Read books and ‘how to’ blog posts, listen to podcasts, or take creative writing classes. No matter how many novels you write, you are always going to learn something new. Write more, read more, and be brave enough to seek feedback.

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How do you make sure you portray characters correctly? Have you avoided a certain trait because you weren’t sure how to write them? Share your experiences with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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How to Create Believable Villians.

Antagonist forces are paramount to a story and while they can sometimes be represented by a theme, such as, prejudice or oppression. Or even an internal struggle, such as, mental health or limiting paradigms , they are usually represented in the form of a person.

So how do we stop this character from becoming a one-dimensional caricature representation?

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The best tip for any writer learning their craft is to read, read a bit more, and then keep reading. Study how these villains have been created; what works, what doesn’t and what you in turn would do. Another great research tool, is to study villains in movies and TV shows. Remember, inspiration comes from many sources. For more tips on finding inspiration why not click the link and check out my previous post?

First of all, remember that every single character in your story believes they are the hero. Yes, even the bad ones.

Just as your protagonist has goals, hopes and dreams, so does the antagonist. To create conflict, the villain and hero will challenge each other, doing anything in their power to stop the other from gaining their goal, because it will usually block their own journey. Play on this, use it to your advantage, imagine the villain and hero are magnetised polar opposites, doing everything in their power to repel the other whilst being constantly bonded together.

Interconnect both of Goal-Conflict-Stakes journey for maximum effect.

Whether a person is good or bad they will have a set of core values. Keep them authentic by sticking to those rules.

Villains need positive traits, just as hero’s need negative traits, it’s what makes them appear human.

Allow readers to empathise with the villain, even if they disagree. Envisage their full story, their journey and ask:

• What or who do they love?
• What are their struggles?
• What happened to them to make them behave in such a way?

Don’t fall into the trap of creating a villain that’s a psychopath or has a borderline personality disorder. This is stereotyping and, in my opinion, does more harm by labelling people struggling with such disorders as evil or somehow less than others.

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Show the reader that your antagonist wasn’t always bad. Perhaps personality faults, environmental circumstances or both drove them into the villain they are today. A three-dimensional villain is never cruel, manipulative and destructive just for effect, there’s a reason behind it, so allow the reader to explore this.

Describe your villain. Not only what their physical features are like, but show any ticks or traits they might have. What manner do they hold themselves in? What do they wear? Again, don’t be tempted to stereotype; not all villains need a scar, a limp, a black cloak or death mask. In real life they’re often undistinguishable, or perhaps even charismatic.

The villain and the hero mirror each other, through similarities but also through contrast. Thus the villain will expose certain truths about the hero, that they didn’t want to admit. And vice versa, whereas the villain won’t overcome this revelation, the hero will grow and evolve into the saviour. Thus being able to conquer all that was set out before them.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Do you have any tips on how to create believable villains? What do think of my very first Infographic?

Please share your thoughts, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.