Guest Post: How to effectively build characters by Stephanie-Louise Farrell

The Amy Winehouse pilgrimage & other stories

By Stephanie-Louise Farrell
Editions: ebook
Published August 31, 2012 by Any Subject Books
Genre: Anthology / Contemporary / Fiction

These four short stories, which are as different as they are original, clearly reveal the author’s ability to sustain suspense until the very last line. In fact, even then we may be left guessing. The uniqueness of the stories lies in the strange and perplexing situations which the protagonists must resolve while at the same time affording us front-row views of their thought processes and emotions. We come to know the characters well, although this doesn’t mean there are no surprises.

We have the supposed arsonist locked in a mental institute; the ambitious student caught in the cruel snare of an eccentric film maker; the young fan whose devotion is suddenly, blindingly understood; the lonely old man who even at the end of the story still has the choice of good or evil.

These are stories to savour, to revolve in the mind, and to remember longer than most other pieces of their length and genre.
~ Amazon Blurb

How to effectively build characters
by Stephanie-Louise Farrell 

Your characters are the most important part of your story – yes, even more important than the plot! You can still create a well-written, meaningful piece of fiction without a large and complex narrative, but you can’t have a good story without well-built and realistic characters to drive it. The people in your story must be multi dimensional, have their own unique histories and interests, make mistakes and most importantly, appear to be just like somebody you could meet in real life. Here are some tips on how to make your characters as believable as possible.

Watch and understand people
In order to build well-rounded characters, you must have a good understanding of human nature and what drives people to do the things they do. Go to the park and ‘people-watch.’ Study how they interact. Pick up on their little quirks, listen to the funny things they say. Pick fragments of them, and of people you know; you can mix them up and put them all together to create a character.
It is not always necessary for your characters to be likeable
Obviously this goes without saying if your character is a serial killer or similar, but even if not, remember your main character doesn’t always have to be likeable, nor do they always have to do the right thing. We meet people we dislike all the time in everyday life. We are all human and make mistakes, and it is good to reflect this in your writing. Stories with an unlikable protagonist(s) can sometimes provide a more interesting narrative, and give the reader a thought-provoking experience.

Know your characters
Write extensively, for your own use, about your characters history, their best and worst traits, even little things that might seem silly – their favorite foods, for example! Create this, memorize it, get to know your characters and let this knowledge drive you as you lead them through the story. You don’t have to share the small details, or even their history if you don’t want to – how much you tell your reader about them is up to you, and sometimes it can be more effective to keep details about the character secret. Know your characters inside out and let that knowledge drive them.

Do your research
This is so important. It’s not just the plot that needs research behind it to look authentic; your characters need it too. If one of your characters has an illness you know nothing about, read up on it! Find stories of personal experience to help you add that personal touch. Get that authenticity.

Understand how your characters relate to one another
In real life, even the best of friends do not get along all the time. Not everybody likes everything about everyone and people have different opinions. Let this feed into your interactions between characters, their conversations, and the ways in which they relate to one another; it will make for more effective, realistic seeming characters.


About the Author:

Stephanie-Louise Farrell was born in 1990 and lives in Leicester and London. She writes and performs poetry and is currently working on her first novel.
Stephanie started writing as a child, but spent most of her life pursuing acting. She changed paths in her late teens and decided to become a writer. She hopes to write full time one day.
Her other interests include theatre, music, cooking, art and feminism. She also writes for an online music zine.
Stephanie’s latest work is a collection of short stories called The Amy Winehouse Pilgrimage and other stories. It is available in Amazon Kindle format.

Links: Website


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