How to Create Unique Characters

Last week, we discussed techniques to use when describing your characters. I’ve already suggested that knowing your characters will aid you in introducing them and creating a dynamic story.

But now we face another dilemma: creating unique characters.

Being able to portray a character’s description and motives clearly mean little if our readers have seen it all before.

But Naomi,

You did a blog post a few weeks ago that detailed how to make a dynamic character. Isn’t that the same thing?

Not quite.

A dynamic character is a character that undergoes a significant inner change. It is the opposite of a static character, which is one who remains the same throughout the work.

Even your static and stock characters can be unique and distinguishable (and I would argue that they should be sometimes).

Image by MonikaP

So, how do we make distinctive characters?

Avoid Cliches

One of the easiest ways to make your character forgettable is by making them banal.

You don’t want your readers to feel like they’ve seen your character in every other book in your genre.

Image by PandaBearPhotographyWales

Don’t know what the cliches are in your genre?

Think back through all of the books you have read. Which characters remind you of other characters that you have read before?

If you are still having trouble, take a look at “Top 10 Character Cliches that Drive Me Nuts.”

Try not to make your characters 1-dimensional

People are layered!

Your characters are people (in an emotional and spiritual sense if not physically)!

So, with the exception of stock characters, most of your characters should have some depth.

Even your side characters should be recognizable as people.

Having one of your characters be a heavy drinker (and a heavy drinker alone) is a boring and tired trope. Even if this character does not make a huge difference in the outcome of your book, consider why he/she is a heavy drinker.

While you don’t want to exposition-dump all of this information on your readers, you can include small, subtle hints that will make your characters more believable and feel more real.

Remember:

1.) Other characters beside your protagonist can be distinctive

You don’t want your main character to be the only interesting one in your story.

Give some of your other characters a moment in the limelight.

2.) Unique does not always = eccentric or odd

Your character does not need to be fanciful or over-the-top to be difference

Image by Andrew Martin

3.) Balance is key

You don’t want to make each character so distinctive that you end up with a story so full of colorful characters that your reader doesn’t know where to focus.

You want to make your characters interesting enough that they can stand alone, but docile enough that when they come together, they can meld to create a masterpiece.

4.) Have fun!

Happy Writing!

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