When you write something as long as a novel, how do you make sure the character stays in character? When you revise, there are several ways to check.
Creating Consistent Characters
- Create a Bible for your character. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but have one file, or a couple note cards that list characteristics. Left handed, blue eyes, lopsided smile to the right, hates licorice, loves flannel sheets, wears a cross necklace, right ear is pierced, etc. It’s surprising how such little details can escape your notice. In one of my picture books, a character suddenly changed from left-handed to right-handed and the illustrator had to redo that bit of art.
- Create separate dialogue files for each character. More than anything else, a character’s dialogue needs to sound consistent (unless, of course, you’re using it to indicate character changes). By creating separate files, I can read straight through just what a character says and edit, then put it back into the novel.
- If there are long spaces between writing and editing sessions, then be sure to re-read the previous sections. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to neglect.
- Immerse yourself with a character for a day. For an entire day, walk around and think about what your character would say, do, feel about the world around you. Immerse yourself in your character’s outlook on life. Then, go back and re-read and tweak. (It makes for great conversation: Why are you so weird today? You don’t usually like gingerbread. Today, I’m being Gretel/Hansel!
- Write an obituary of your character. It’s another way to focus on the main character traits, dreams, hopes, goals. What DID your character accomplish during their lifetime? Then go back and make sure your character more or less consistently works toward that goal
Read more of 15 Days to a Stronger Character.
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